KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A recent Staley High School graduate says her school kept her alive.
“I was convinced that by the time I was 16, I was going to be dead of my own doing,” the student said.
The CDC says in 2021, 22% of students seriously considered suicide, but a partnership in the metro is trying to fight back.
“My depression had gotten really, really bad and my anxiety had gotten really bad,” the student said.
There was a combination of unfortunate events, mixed with bullying and two debilitating mental health diagnoses. The student, as just a 7th grader, faced what would turn out to be one of the hardest times of her life.
“It is a lot of waking up every morning and telling yourself you need to get dressed, you need to brush your teeth, you need to brush your hair and not being able to do it,” she said.
The middle schooler at the time, not knowing what to do, contemplated suicide before she was introduced to Shirleetra Roundtree.
That is the person she says saved her life.
“When you go into that space where your counselor is like, ‘Look, we know you’re struggling, we have people, we have resources to help you.’ It’s just a big weight off of your shoulders,” the student said.
“I take my job very seriously, and I feel like it’s a blessing anytime a young person wants to share their deepest thoughts with you and let you be a part of their lives,” Roundtree, a school-based community mental health provider with Beacon Mental Health, said.
That connection was made after North Kansas City Schools brought mental health professionals into their schools. Roundtree was the first to do so.
In the eight years of their school-based programs, Beacon Mental Health, along with the Children’s Services Fund, have helped more than 9,000 kids in Clay County alone.
In some cases, saving their lives and lighting the way.
“It doesn’t just impact the child and the family, it impacts behavior within the classroom. It makes it easier for teachers to be able to know how to deal with students in a way that’s trauma-sensitive,” Roundtree said.
“You’re not alone you’re not an outcast but there are things you can do to better yourself.”
Roundtree says the key to the work they do is authentic relationships, meeting kids where they are and making sure resources are accessible, like having them in our schools.
As for the student, she graduated, she’s thriving, and she is now attending Maple Woods College with hopes of being a storybook writer.