Parents, advocates rally after Queen Creek High loses five to suicide

QUEEN CREEK – A suicide prevention group rallied Friday in front of Queen Creek High School to show support for students, who have lost five classmates to suicide since May. The fifth death was reported just this week.

The event was hosted by Project Connect Four, created by mothers in the Valley concerned about rising suicide rates at high schools.

“We came out here … to show these kids that there are people out here who care about them and what’s happening,” said Christina Nguyen, president of Project Connect Four.

Suicides among teens and young adults have risen by about 3 percent since 2000, according to the American Society for Suicide Prevention. More than 2,000 teenagers ages 15 to 19 committed suicide in 2015, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Before dawn Friday, about 100 people gathered in front of Queen Creek High, holding signs with positive messages. Their goal, Nguyen said, was to show students that even if they don’t think they matter, they do. The group stood along the street to make sure all the students would see the signs as they arrived to class.

Elisa Bertram, the grandmother of a Queen Creek student, said it was important for adults to show their support.

“If we all stay together,” she said, “maybe we can make this never happen again.”

Students weren’t allowed to demonstrate on school grounds, but some were outside to show their support. They planned to take signs from the demonstration to hang in the school halls.

“We’re a family. It’s a good school and we come together in times of need,” senior Autumn Bourque said. “And everyone is bonding together: the administration, the teachers, the students. It’s all one united force.”

She had advice for fellow teens who may be going through a hard time.

“You’re loved and you matter. We want you here. If you ever need help, me, myself and a couple other people who are out here, are more than willing to talk and support you,” Bourque pledged.

If you are contemplating suicide, or know of someone who is, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

People gather outside Queen Creek High School in remembrance of the five Queen Creek students who have died by suicide since May 2017. (Photo by Miles Metke/Cronkite News)
Christina Nguyen, head of Project Connect Four, speaks with a parent outside Queen Creek High School. Her group formed in response to the rising teen suicide rate in Arizona. (Photo by Miles Metke/Cronkite News)
Elisa Bertram, grandparent of a student at Queen Creek High School, holds a sign to show solidarity outside the school. Since May 2017, five of the school's students have died by suicide. (Photo by Miles Metke/Cronkite News)
People line up Friday morning in front of Queen Creek High School for the Kindness Crew event put on by Project Connect Four. Supporters held signs to show the students they are loved. (Photo by Miles Metke/Cronkite News)
Toddlers hold a sign during the Kindness Crew event Friday outside Queen Creek High School. The event was held in response to the fifth student suicide in the past 10 months. (Photo by Miles Metke/Cronkite News)
A sign prompts students to call the suicide prevention line if they or someone they know is contemplating suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. (Photo by Miles Metke/Cronkite News)
Project Connect Four held a Kindness Crew event at Queen Creek High School to support the students after a fifth student died by suicide since May 2017. (Photo by Miles Metke/Cronkite News)