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HCADA Spreads Important Message About Free Classes for Youth This Summer via WTSP News Channel 10 on 6/14/17

Are teens being pushed to death?

This week, Michelle Carter has been on trial.  The 20-year-old from Massachusetts is accused of texting her boyfriend convincing him to commit suicide.

Even if you haven’t watched “13 Reasons Why” yet, you’ve likely heard about the popular Netflix show that’s putting a spotlight on teen suicide.  Some say it romanticizes kids ending their lives and fosters revenge fantasies.

But what’s being done to help teens cope?  A local group is helping teens tackle the tough topic.

A classroom isn’t where you’d expect to find students over summer break.  But some feel with the problems teens are facing — bullying, peer pressure, low self-esteem, and thoughts of suicide — it’s worth learning to speak up.  It could save a life.

“It was scary for a lot of people,” says Gaither High senior Elijah Salgado.

Salgado says the series, “13 Reasons Why,” about a girl’s suicide, made some dark feelings surface in students at his school.

“Not long after it came out, one kid tried to commit suicide in the school.  He tried jumping off the balcony, but luckily some cops pulled him back.  I know some stuff has happened to him previously,” says Salgado.

Now, that school’s out for summer, he sees more cyberbullying through social media.

“It’s definitely easier to speak when you’re behind a phone and just say hurtful things.  People starting stuff, things will eventually happen in real life, either fights break out or arguments.  A lot of teens now are going through a lot of hardships, especially with high school,” says Salgado.

The Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance says it’s why now is the best time to talk with teens about these serious subjects: learning to say no, stopping bullying, and speaking up when they’re overwhelmed.  It’s part of a 7-week free summer program for teens that runs through July 26.

“We’re helping their self-esteem, and help with their peer pressure.  Peer pressure is the biggest thing.  Most of the kids who can overcome peer pressure can overcome most everything,” says Denise Birungi-Evans, Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance youth coordinator.

Birungi-Evans says parents have to be connected to kids to notice changes and open up communication before it’s too late.

“Sometimes it gets hard, but I have a lot of friends that help me out and family.  It’s better to do than keeping everything inside to let it all out.  Some people can only take it for so long.  Classes like these definitely help out,” says Salgado.

They’d love to have more teens turn out for the upcoming free classes.  They’re every Wednesday afternoon from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance, 2815 E Henry Ave B-1, Tampa.  Students don’t need to register.

Click here to check class schedule

There is help if you or someone you love needs it.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

© 2017 WTSP-TV

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