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Michelle Anderson's son, JJ, took his own life in 2016.
But now, nearly three years later, she says the problem of suicide among youth in Elk Grove isn't getting better.
Anderson and her husband, Josh, who started JJ's "Hello Foundation," an organization to prevent youth suicide, say they know of 10 youth suicides in the Elk Grove area since 2015. Three of them occurred in the past three months, they said.
"It just hardens me that it's still happening, it's still stronger," Michelle said. "Kids have nowhere to turn and they're thinking that's the answer."
That's why Michelle and Josh decided to voice their concerns at the Elk Grove Unified School Board meeting recently, where parent after parent went up to the podium to address the issue of bullying.
"He doesn't eat. He's depressed. And that breaks my heart," one student told the board about her brother, who she said is being bullied.
Xanthi Pinkerton, a spokesperson for the Elk Grove Unified School District, said they cannot say how many students have taken their lives, but said there is a comprehensive approach in place that helps identify at-risk students, get them the support they need, and then eventually help with re-entry into school.
She said if a student does take his or her life, grief counselors are available to students and staff.
"In the past few years I think nationally we've pointed to statistics that there is a rise in suicides," Pinkerton said. "In our district we want to make sure, we don't want to see that grow. It's something we take very seriously."
Still, the Andersons say with suicides on the rise, it's clear to them that even more needs to be done.
"I'm not going to lose another child to suicide because a bunch of grown people don't know how to stand up to children," Michelle told the board.
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