SARASOTA- Just last week two survivors of the Parkland tragedy died by suicide, now Sarasota County Schools is implementing a new crisis text line to help students in need.  Kids can text HERE4U to 741741 and within seconds of send the message they are connected to a trained counselor.

“When a kid is in crisis,” Giacolone said. “We want a kid to have whatever help is accessible at that time because we know when someone is ready to reach out for help that’s a critical moment.”

Counselors also share links to online resources for young adults. Director of Student Services Debra Giacolone says it’s important to help students in ways that make them more comfortable.

“A lot of times it’s easier for kids to text something to somebody,” Giacolone said. “Rather than to pick up a phone or have a face to face conversation, things have changed over the years and what kids do right now is text, the use social media.”

This is just one step they’ve made over the past year. Sarasota County Schools also hired new mental health counselors thanks to the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Act.

“We have a total 20 that we’ve added,” Giacolone said. “And so we’ve removed a lot of the barriers for parents because the therapists are right on site, parents don’t have to take time off work, kids don’t have to miss school, they can access services that are available right there in those schools.”

They’ve also implemented new training for teachers and staff on recognizing students in crisis.

“Know the signs when things look different,” Giacolone said. “Maybe a kids whose been quiet all along is suddenly outspoken, or maybe a kid whose always been an extrovert is now introverted, not contributing, so we’re training our staff.”

Schools are also educating students on the resources available and encouraging them to ask for help.

“Whether they have a counselor they feel very comfortable talking with,” Giacolone said. “They have a teacher they have a strong relationship with, if they feel most comfortable texting, we want students to know that there is an array of options to get help when help is needed, and getting help is a sign of strength not a sign of weakness.”

The new crisis text line is being made available through a grant from the Barancik Foundation.