Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, News & Advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

Written by Paget Hetherington
on February 27, 2020

When Ethan was a freshman in high school, he lost one of his closest friends to suicide. Now a junior, the 17-year-old student is still unsure why his friend ended his life, what was wrong, and why he never talked about any problems. “He was always really funny and happy,” said Ethan. “He never told me about any problems in his life—we were just happy all the time.”

Ethan had no idea that his friend was struggling. “The day before, we were in PE and he said he didn’t feel well,” said Ethan. “That was it.” It can be hard to tell how people are really feeling, especially if the typical warning signs aren’t apparent. If an individual doesn’t appear to be struggling, how can you really know what’s going on?

Kids don’t always want to discuss topics like mental health—it can be hard for them to reach out and talk to somebody about sensitive subjects. Because of this, school districts across the country use Gaggle to identify students who need interventions or require additional support services. Gaggle has helped many districts save students’ lives, with the safety platform operating as a 24/7 alarm system that sends an alert when students are in distress. “Those students who are in most need are experts at hiding what’s going on,” said Dr. Melissa Williams-Scott, executive director of information systems for Dickinson ISD in Texas.

Ethan believes services like Gaggle would help kids who don’t know how to reach out—or who to reach out to. From a privacy perspective, Ethan is comfortable knowing that what he’s writing in the digital environment is being reviewed if it means saving other kids who are silently struggling. “I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s a way to be there for the kids who need the extra help.” He also points out the importance of having peers to talk to, including services like TEEN LINE. “Kids are more comfortable talking to people the same age,” said Ethan, “whether it’s in person, online, or a tipline.”

“If someone is going through something, it’s important to find someone to talk to—no matter who it is,” adds Ethan. “Just find someone to talk to and don’t let anything bottle up inside. Somebody out there will listen. You can’t be afraid to reach out.”

For further reading on student mental health, be sure to download our in-depth white paper and review our infographic. If you see signs of any mental health issues with students, children, or loved ones—or if you need to speak with someone—here are some resources that may help:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741

Note: Ethan's surname and school district have been omitted for privacy.

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