Local group to hold anti-bullying, suicide-awareness event amid reports of increased youth suicide rates

Last month, a 9-year-old boy from Denver killed himself after he was bullied by classmates, his family told various media outlets. While pre-teen suicides are rare, they have been increasing at alarming rates, according to medical professionals and researchers.

Among Long Beach Unified School District’s roughly 74,000 students and 85 schools, officials reported 265 bullying offenses in the 2016-17 school year to the state, said school district spokesman Chris Eftychiou, adding that the district has no local data on suicide or suicidal ideation.

With reports like these and coinciding with Suicide Awareness & Prevention Month, multiple organizations will come together in Long Beach this Saturday to host a mini-conference and resource fair to discuss bullying and suicide.

Organized by local youth and family nonprofit California Families in Focus, the event is geared toward students, parents and school personnel. It aims to provide resources to the community and reveal the challenges students face as well as the tools available to them.

It will feature a panel discussion on what the community can do to create a safe environment for children, said California Families in Focus founder Angel Macias. Panelists include parents, youth, teachers, law enforcement, therapists and counselors with recently elected school district board member Juan Benitez as moderator.

Dimitri Halkidis, president of the nonprofit Boo2Bullying will deliver a keynote speech. Local guitarist and singer Gericho and positivity rappers Aranzi Ramirez and Astro, who use their music to shed light on suicide awareness, will provide entertainment.

Other participating organizations include United Against Hate, 23 Seeds of Greatness and Angels Model Academy.

Registration is $10, which includes access to the event, lunch, an “I MATTER” backpack and an opportunity to enter a door-prize drawing for tickets to the Tropicalia festival at the Queen Mary. Discount family packages for households with multiple children will be offered.

The event will be Saturday, Sept. 15 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Long Beach First Church of the Nazaerene, at 2280 Clarke Ave. Click here to purchase tickets.

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Stephanie Rivera covers immigration and the north, west and central parts of Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @StephRivera88.
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