SYRACUSE, Utah -- This week, students at Syracuse High School will take on the once taboo topic of suicide.
"I knew her. She was a great person," said Kesaia Akau, as she recalled a classmate who took her own life before the 2014-15 school year began.
According to the Utah Department of Health's Department of Vital Statistics, in 2013, 44 people under the age of 20 committed suicide.
Statistics for 2014 are not yet available.
Jill Hess, a teacher and DECA adviser at Syracuse High said ignoring suicide does not make it go away.
"It used to be that you didn't talk about it. You didn't say ‘suicide.’ And now, you bring it forth, you wanna talk about it so students realize they're not the only ones going through it. There are others, and we are all here to help each other," she said.
A student organization called The Hope Squad offers help as well.
Now in its second year, the squad consists of more than 30 students in all grade levels who've been elected by their peers. They receive special training on how to identify and talk to students who might be feeling sad or isolated.
"We're trying to put the word out there and say, ‘yeah, it's OK to receive help,’" said Syracuse senior and Hope Squad member Bianca Gonzales.
Gonzales added students are opening up to members of the squad, perhaps more than they would to adults.
"We've actually had a few people with some suicide questions, and we've actually saved and helped about three people this year, which is really nice, and without the Hope Squad I think that wouldn't have happened," she said.