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By Jack Smith, Santa Barbara Education Foundation

Teen suicide is one of the most devastating outcomes of depression and mental illness, claiming over 6,000 lives each year and standing as the second leading cause of death for that age group.

Santa Barbara Unified School District has reported improved mental health for its students thanks to health and counseling services. Yet still, 12% of students in grades 7 through 12 SBUSD schools have reportedly considered suicide in the past year.

Luckily, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation is actively working to support SBUSD’s efforts to combat this and happy to announce an award of $90,000 from the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara. The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara is a collective donor organization offering over $500,000 in grants each year to address the needs of women, children, and families in Santa Barbara County.

With this partnership, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation will promote both organization’s goals of bringing the Sources of Strength suicide prevention program to all three high schools in the District.

This strength-based wellness program has proven to be successful in reducing suicide, bullying, substance abuse, and violence in schools. The program aims to change school culture and social norms by implementing peer leaders and strength messaging. It will be integrated with the existing Youth Wellness Connection Clubs and work to promote community bonding, peer-adult connections, and help-seeking behaviors.

With Sources of Strength present in our high schools, the District expects students to become more open about mental health and to reach out to peers and teachers for help.

The Foundation is excited to witness the positive effects this program will have over the years and will continue working to bring teen suicide in the Santa Barbara Unified School District down to zero.