SALEM — Most students greet him with an exuberant, “Hey, Mr. Peery!” and a high-five, or a fist-bump.

A few are more reserved. Bart Peery is the principal, after all.

And one student seems to be going through a tough time.

It’s the final week of the school year at Salem Hills High School, and Peery asks the boy if he’s picked up his yearbook yet. When he replies that he didn’t order a yearbook, Peery says he’ll give him one at no cost — “because I want to sign it.” But the boy shakes his head no. He doesn’t want to remember this year, he says, because “it’s been the worst year of my entire life.”

Peery nods; he’s aware of the boy and his struggles with mental health. He doesn’t press.

“The ones who scare me the most are the ones who struggle silently, and I don’t know what they’re fighting,” he says later.

Peery, 59, wears an assortment of colorful wristbands and Skyhawk navy blue sneakers as he roams the hallways before first period. It’s his morning routine: He wakes up, prays, and goes out in search for teens in trouble.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Students high-five Salem Hills High School Principal Bart Peery as they walk by in the high school’s hallways on Thursday, May 24, 2018.

He keeps a list. Currently, he knows of about 60 students who are struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts, and statistics tell Peery he’s missing upward of 100 more.

The youth suicide rate nearly quadrupled in Utah between 2007 and 2015, when 44 teens died by suicide, and preliminary state data shows 42 died in 2017 — roughly one out of every 10,000 teens. Salem Hills — a midsize school of about 1,350 students in a pastoral Utah County town — has lost four students to suicide in the past five years.

Youth suicides increased nationwide by 75 percent over the same 2007-2015 period (from 2.4 suicides per 100,000 teens to 4.2), with clusters traumatizing communities in California, Colorado, Ohio and elsewhere. But rates are unusually high in the Intermountain West, where research has shown that access to firearms and high altitude may be contributing factors.

In the most recent annual survey published by the state’s Department of Human Services, nearly 1 in 5 of Utah’s high school seniors reported they’d seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Most …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

      

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With Utah’s youth suicides rising, educators are feeling the brunt and asking for help

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