2 Johnson County school districts are trying to stop teen suicides

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — Two Johnson County school districts are trying to stop teen suicides. 

The Johnson County Mental Health Center called it an epidemic.  

From January to March, data shows five teens took their own lives in Johnson County. In 2017, that number for the county was six for the whole year.

That’s one reason Blue Valley Superintendent Todd White sent a district-wide email to parents.

“To make sure we could talk about suicides to remove that stigma,” White said.

The CDC shows nationally, teen and young adult suicides have nearly tripled since the 1940s.

Megan Clark, prevention coordinator at Johnson County Mental Health, said that is really just the tip of the iceberg since that number doesn’t account for anyone who thought about or attempted to take their own life.

On Monday, Olathe Schools announced it would offer mental health therapy services to all students, staff and their families over the summer months. The 50-minute sessions will take place at Prairie Learning Center June 4 through July 26. They will be free.


Blue Valley also plans to ramp up its prevention efforts, training more teachers to look for warning signs and adding support and intervention groups.

It will be working with the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition and BV Well.

In his email, White called the young lives lost this past year heartbreaking.

“One is too many. As we look at the numbers, it’s important for us to open up this conversation,” said White.

BVSD added 19 social workers in September 2017.  

Johnson County Mental Health Director of Operations Tanner Fortney talked about applying for a grant to pay for more clinicians or social workers in other JoCo schools.

“They could look to see what students that could be in crisis… students coming up saying I’m concerned about my friend. Teachers or administrators witnessing bullying,” said Fortney.

Fortney also said bullying over social media and on cellphones continues into the home and is hard to get away from.

“Bullying has become more public, seeing things posted on these media outlets,” said Clark.

Both the district and health services urge parents to talk to their teens, let them know their worth and have a coping plan in case of a crisis.

“Talking about suicide does not put the idea in someone’s head. If you talk about suicide you know many people struggle with the thoughts of suicide,” said Clark.

One of the groups BVSD is partnering with, BV Well, will have a talk about social media Tuesday night.


If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call them at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

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