AUSTIN -- Students at Anderson High School are reaching out for help through social networking. Now school officials are asking parents to be on alert.
Scrolling through any Facebook news feed, you'll find details of other people lives. Social networks have become a prominent form of communication and sharing, but at Anderson High, staff say it's also become a serious problem. Principal Donna Houser even sent a letter to parents addressing the issue.
"I heard some kids were just taking it really too seriously. They just, like, are getting mad, and some people are getting made fun of and stuff," said senior Luis Alvarado.
The conversation on Facebook quickly made its way to the school hallways.
"There's rumors pretty much all over the place. That's pretty much how news travels nowadays," Alvarado explained.
The rumors even spread to school administrators who immediately took action, contacting parents of the students involved and notifying all others through the schools newsletter The Trojan Times.
In the message Principal Houser writes, "Several of our students have expressed serious feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and depression to each other and have formed a 'social network' discussing ways to respond to this stress."
"It's a form of communication they've grown up with. It's very convenient," explained Therapist Mark White, LCSW, LMFT.
White specializes in adolescent and family therapy. He says this is a problem he deals with on a daily basis.
"They might seek some affirmation, some response from others," he said.
White said posting on the Internet is second nature to teens who might not realize the consequences of venting on a social network.
"They can express themselves without fully thinking about what they're saying, and what the response is, and how it's going to be received by the other party," White said.
In the letter, school officials say while it is important for students to discuss their issues with friends, they aren't equipped to act as counselors.
"I think it's a very positive move by the administration to do that, and any time an adolescent will talk to an adult and have open communication, it's in both parties both interests," White said.
Principal Houser says they will be talking to students about the issue, and they encourage parents to do the same at home.
Austin ISD officials did not want to speak on camera but did send KVUE a list of tips for parents when talking to your teens about this issue:
- It can be difficult for parents/ guardians to tell the difference between ups and downs that are just part of being a child/ teen and actual youth depression. Signs that your child may be experiencing depression include:
o feeling persistently sad or blue;
o talking about suicide or being better off dead;
o becoming suddenly much more irritable;
o having a marked deterioration in school or home functioning;
o reporting persistent physical complaints and/or making many visits to school nurses;
o failing to engage in previously pleasurable activities or interactions with friends; and
o abusing substances.
- If depression symptoms continue or begin to interfere in your child’s life, talk a mental health professional trained to work with children/ adolescents or make a doctor’s appointment as soon as you can.
- Depression symptoms likely won't get better on their own — and they may get worse or lead to other problems if untreated.
- Depressed youth may be at risk of suicide, even if signs and symptoms don't appear to be severe.
- If you are a child/ teen and think you may be depressed — or you have a friend who may be depressed — don't wait to get help. Share your concerns with a parent, a school counselor, a teacher, a mentor, a spiritual leader, or any adult you trust.
Thoughts of Suicide
If your child is having suicidal thoughts, get help right away. Take all talk of suicide seriously.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.
- Seek help from your doctor, a mental health provider or other health care professional.
- Reach out to family members, friends or spiritual leaders for support as you seek treatment for your teen.
- If your child is in immediate danger or self-harm or attempting suicide, make sure someone stays with him or her. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or if you think you can do so safely, take your teen to the nearest hospital emergency department.
Local Parent/ Youth Resources
Communities In Schools (on your child’s campus)
Austin Child Guidance Center
Dell Children’s Hospital
Lone Star Circle of Care
Austin Travis County Integral Care
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)