“We had been looking for something that could provide more opportunity for students to speak out,” said Kirk Carpenter, superintendent of Aztec Municipal School District.
The system is an app and 24/7 hotline that students can use to report classmates who may be at risk of hurting themselves or others. Superintendent Carpenter said that calls have decreased during the pandemic and shifted to students who are struggling mentally.
“We haven’t had as many call-ins on it. We have had some, but I think what this system does and this whole approach does is it creates a culture of advocacy where students are reaching in and reporting things, and we’ve had that happen and we’ve had our own campaign too, as far as sending things out to families about the mental health issue, but I think what it does is that it creates a culture that it’s OK to speak out. It’s OK to speak up to see if students need help, and we’ve had it happen even right now,” he said.
Officials said the hotline has seen a 20 percent increase in tips nationwide in 2020. Carpenter said those tips are coming from students who are saving the lives of their classmates.
In New Mexico, more than 20 school-aged kids and teens have died by suicide since March, according to the Office of the Medical Investigator.
Right now, 48 schools in New Mexico are using this reporting system, but Carpenter said he thinks lawmakers should require every school to use a similar system.
“I can’t tell you how many times during the holidays we will get calls letting us know students are in crisis. We got a great team that reacts on that, gets addresses to dispatch, dispatch sends out the law enforcement to check on them,” Carpenter said. “That’s happened numerous times over the course of the years we’ve had it.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-855-NMCRISIS.