Young women launch organization to prevent teen suicide

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- You've probably heard of "13 Reasons Why". It's a best-selling book and popular yet controversial television series that chronicles the final days of a teenage girl who commits suicide.

But for so many teens, the stresses and pressures which lead them to consider ending their lives is far from fiction.

One after the other, it seems, a local teenager commits suicide.

In March, a 16-year-old's body was found at an Humble elementary school.

Since November, two teenagers in Texas City ended their lives -- including Brandi Vela, who pulled the trigger in front of her family.

Eighteen months ago, Cassidy Hess, a cheerleader at College Park in The Woodlands, committed suicide.

In fact, a recent study from the Centers For Disease Control reveals that suicides among girls 10-14 have increased more than three times in the past 15 years -- the fastest growth among women.

But in Montgomery County, there is a group trying to help, trying to stem the tide of what feels like a wave of teen suicide, trying to put an end to bullying in person and online. They're called My Person Foundation.

Danielle Padron and Brittany Cannon are the founders of the group. They saw the issues facing teen girls firsthand and knew they couldn't sit by and do nothing.

With permission from Conroe ISD, they started a group meant to mentor, counsel and listen.

"They want to open up and they want to talk about it," Cannon said of the girls with whom they work. "They don't want to feel judged. They don't want to feel that we're going to run and tell their parents. They just want someone to listen."

"They need that extra shoulder they can lean on and cry on," added Padron. "Just an outsider looking in, no judgment, and saying, 'We are your person. We are here. What can we do for you?' "

They thought a few girls might sign up. They had more than 200.

"It's a huge family and we're growing, " said Chelsea Degueyter, the foundation's business and marketing medical director. "We're just mentors who are relatable and these students just open up to us."

Madee Willhite is among the students they've helped.

She's not had it easy, posting a video on YouTube talking about bullies and self-esteem. She's now a part of the group.

"They've made a positive impact," said Willhite. "They've helped me in so many ways that I really can't thank them enough. "

Caroline Cantrell is also a member. One of her closest friends was Cassidy Hess.

"I almost call it the invisible disease," she said, "because there aren't really any noticeable symptoms in a lot of people."

The group meets once a month.

At Conroe High School, there is a group for girls and one for boys. There is a second chapter at The Woodlands High School, and the program is growing fast.

"There is so much more to life after high school," said Degueyter, "and it's amazing."

The hope is that the more overwhelmed teens talk about what's impacting them, the less impacted they'll be, and a disturbing trend will reverse itself before more young lives end needlessly.

"We know we can't save everyone," said Padron, "but one life is enough."

Visit to learn more about the organization's work.
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