14 students died by suicide in top three Bexar County school districts last school year, officials say

San Antonio school districts providing more mental health services

SOMERSET, Texas – School districts are taking a more aggressive approach to educate communities and provide programs to provide mental health services.

Ralph and Elaine Zamora describe their son Robert as athletic, happy, friendly and loved by everyone.

“The teachers would even say, ‘I don’t know what it is about Robert.’ Just everybody wanted to be around him,” Ralph said.

The parents joked that Robert was such a good communicator, he could sell air to anyone.

“He never mentioned anything about being mad or upset with anybody or depressed,” his mother said.

On Sept. 24, 2013, the family learned about their son’s other side. He died by suicide. It was later that they discovered there were signs. Friends told the family he had mentioned suicide before.

The family later went on to fund scholarships for students at Somerset ISD in Robert’s honor.

Fourteen students died by suicide at the top three Bexar County school districts last school year. Here’s a closer look at the numbers:

North East ISD

  • 2018-2019: 0
  • 2019-2020: 3
  • 2020-2021: 7

Northside ISD

  • 2018-2019: 2
  • 2019-2020: 1
  • 2020-2021: 6

Judson ISD

  • 1 in three years

Edgewood ISD

  • 0 in three years

Somerset ISD

  • 2019: 1

San Antonio ISD

  • 2018-2019: 0
  • 2019-2020: 0
  • 2020-2021: 1
  • Current School Year: 2

Somerset ISD is kicking off a new program called Thrive to provide mental health and wrap-around services for the students, staff and community members.

Susan Arciniega, the district’s health and wellness coordinator, says mental health services are more than just counseling.

“We’re trying to encompass a whole services in terms of what we can do with, not just the mental health and wellbeing and the counseling but also what we can do in terms of their needs in the community,” she said.

The district received federal CARES Act Funds through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). Part of those funds will help establish Thrive, which includes two clinical staff members.

The program hopes to take the care beyond the walls of an office and teach the community about warning signs.

“Having parent meetings with our families and being able to understand the dynamics of what children go through developmentally, what is seen as normal, what is seen as maybe a flag and a trigger,” Arciniega said.

Bexar County also recently announce funds to help expand mental health programs in schools, including Somerset ISD, which is separate from Thrive.

School districts KSAT reached out to said they are making substantial efforts to increase awareness around mental health.

SAISD said in August that educators for middle schools and high schools completed a 6-hour Mental Health First national certification course.

This month, NEISD launched the #BeThe1ToAsk campaign to highlight the five steps to help someone experiencing suicidal thoughts: ask, be there, keep them safe, help them connect, follow up.

NISD also lists several Safe Schools Initiatives Program geared to supporting students.

Educators say the first step to helping reduce death by suicide in students is by talking about it and discussing where resources are available.

The number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. The help line is available 24 hours a day.

Click here for resources from the Texas Suicide Prevention Collaborative.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.