San Diego program asks students to watch for signs of violence among peers

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A local program already in some schools asks students to watch for signs of violence among their peers.

Mary Papagolos is a therapist who runs the Here Now program for South Bay Community Services. The 6-year-old county-funded program - overseen by San Diego Youth Services - expanded into the South Bay two years ago.

This school year, Papagolos's team has gone to some 10 South Bay schools, from grades six-to-12, presenting in classroom settings and asking students to watch for signs of suicide but also violence toward others, or "homicidal ideation."

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"Some of the common warning signs we have students look for are isolation, withdrawal ... Also there's a big bullying component ... Those that are being bullied or doing the bullying are maybe struggling with something more serious," said Papagolos.

After each presentation, students are handed a response card. One of the boxes they can check reads: "I need to talk to someone about myself or a friend."

Papagolos says about 10 percent of the students they meet with request one-on-one meetings. She says serious tips are acted upon.

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"Absolutely we've involved schools, parents, community resources and Chula Vista Police as appropriate," said Papagolos.

That possibly critical intervention is ultimately traced back to their peers.

"They're the ones on the front lines, not us. So if we can teach them the warning signs, they are part of the larger effort to save lives," said Papagolos.

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