Fresno Unified hires counselor focused on preventing suicide

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno Unified is taking action to protect students from dying by suicide. For the first time, the district has hired a counselor specifically for students who struggle with suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Nationwide, suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death among individuals ages 10-34. In Fresno County, 25 people below the age of 25 died by suicide in 2020.

Through FUSD Connect, the district is working to address the problem proactively and help the students who need it most.

Buffy Bowers-Woods is the clinical school social worker behind Fresno Unified' s new program FUSD Connect.

"We've already identified students who can benefit from these services," said Bowers-Woods. "So I've hit the ground running connecting with schools students and families."

After a year of isolation and distance learning, administrators knew their students were struggling.

"We began to notice this need to continue to prevent suicide in a more intensive way with direct services," said Social Emotional Manager Abigail Arii.

So they took action, looking for a counselor who could take on a potentially life-saving role. As a five-year veteran with the district, Bowers-Woods was eager to take this step.

"That seems like it was built for me to do that kind of work," said Buyers-Woods. "Within this pandemic, for the last 18 months, we know students have been disconnected which increases the risk for suicide, we know families have been impacted and they're experiencing additional struggle."

Through her work, she's able to identify students who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, collecting data from across the district to determine which students need her help.

"We are expecting that students are going to need that social, emotional support and potentially suicide is something those students are thinking about," added Buyers-Woods. "We really want to highlight that there's a support for those students and we're not running away from it."

Once she identifies a need she can provide individual counseling, case management and additional support. If you're a Fresno Unified family and you know a student who is struggling, the district has tools to help. You can reach out to your support team on campus. There's also a referral page on the district's website.
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