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CHICAGO (AP) — Concerns about suicides among teens nationwide and youth mental health issues have prompted officials at a school district in a northwestern suburb of Chicago to start discussing the topic in class.

Crystal Lake Elementary District 47 launched a suicide prevention and depression awareness program this month called Signs of Suicide for its seventh- and eighth-grade students, The Daily Herald reported.

District officials said parents were allowed to opt out of the program and that three decided to do so.

Kristin Schmidt, the district’s assistant director of special education and a social worker, said the program’s participants watch a video, participate in group discussions and answer questions to determine whether they are at risk of depression or have suicidal tendencies.

“We are seeing an increase in school clinicians needing to do crisis assessments,” Schmidt said. “We do a crisis assessment if we believe there is a significant risk of harm of self or others. To date, we have done 100 crisis assessments at our three middle schools (this school year).”

The district has exceeded the number of crisis assessments it had conducted by this time last year. Officials said the district is seeing a gradual annual increase in students struggling with emotional issues.

“Oftentimes mental illness isn’t talked about,” said Scott Campbell, clinical director of Samaritan Counseling Center of the Northwest Suburbs.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds, Campbell said.

“Nine out of 10 people that take their lives have a diagnosable mental health issue,” Campbell said. “That’s why early intervention and prevention is really important. Teaching people how to look for the symptoms and getting people help, that’s really the key.”


Information from: Daily Herald,