On Tuesday, tragedy stuck Lanier High School in North Austin when a teenager shot and killed himself on campus.
The shooting happened just after noon in the courtyard of the school. The student’s death is a loss to the community, but it’s also an opportunity to spark critical conversations between parents and their children.
Dr. Stephen Kolar counsels children battling suicidal thoughts, and patients who are dealing with the aftermath of suicide. He says preventing suicide is about paying attention.
"Be there for them to be a sounding board, and don't be as advice-giving as sometimes parents want to do," Dr. Kolar said. "They won't go out and say, 'I want to kill myself,' but they might say, 'My life sucks' or 'This world isn't worth being in.' You have got to take those seriously."
The emotions of teenagers are their reality, and they will often choose to vent how they feel on social media. The public platform can allow attentive parents a window into their world.
"I would say that kids these days get a lot more support off of social media than they did when social media was in its infancy," Kolar said.
Facebook pages and Twitter feeds can clue parents in to sudden changes in behavior, like dropping favorite activities or giving away prized possessions.
Kolar says new technology is no substitute for a face-to-face daily communication with teens. In times of crisis, he says it's time to reach out for support--to family, friends, ministers or doctors.
"I think in these instances, it is probably best to have as many people who interact with the kid as the kid is comfortable with," Kolar said.
Austin ISD officials are doing what they can to help kids, and they encourage parents to take action and stay involved.
"If they have questions or concerns, they can call professionals who can be available to them to answer any questions," Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said.
If you need to talk, or if you are worried about someone else, help is always available. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also reach out to the Austin Travis County Mobile Outreach Team at (512) 472-HELP.