HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s a troubling trend, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suspected suicide attempts increased among teenagers during the pandemic.
A local mom knows the pain all too well, and she’s working to get a suicide awareness program in Hillsborough County Schools.
“She was funny, she told some really good jokes, and she liked to make people laugh,” said Lisa Acierno, who founded Hailey’s Voice of Hope after her daughter Hailey took her own life in 2017.
“You don’t get over that. It doesn’t get easier,” said Acierno.
Acierno has made it her mission to spare other parents the same pain. She worked with the Hillsborough County School Board to implement suicide prevention training.
“She had a mental illness that was potentially fatal. It’s no different than having fatal cancer, and that’s where I believe people need to realize that this is a real issue, it is not someone seeking attention, and we need to do something about it,” said Acierno.
The group is working to launch a program to train principals about suicide, as well as the warning signs of mental health issues.
Acierno said the program has gotten off to a slow start because of the pandemic, but with rising suicide attempts among teens, she has a renewed sense of urgency.
“The school board has been overwhelmed with trying to get everything that they need to get done to get kids back in the classroom. So, unfortunately, this is kind of been taking a secondary role. But we’re just kind of saying you know it’s time. This is an issue we can’t keep ignoring,” said Acierno,
The group is working with the school board to implement training.
“It teaches them signs, symptoms, and mental illness resources available to them if they are struggling, as well as resources to help them if they have a friend who is struggling,” said Acierno.
Acierno said her goal is to eventually broaden that training to school resource officers, and counselors.
“If it saves one life I feel like Hailey will be proud of what we accomplished,” Acierno said.
The group will hold a fall fundraiser including a golf outing and Halloween ball at Heritage Isles Golf and Country Club.
For more information on Hailey’s Voice of Hope or to donate, click here.