WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) – North High senior Mia Cruz says the last five years have been a huge struggle for her as she’s battled loneliness and depression after tragically losing her best friend in a car crash.

“I think the most difficult part for me was that the support system that I had had, was the person who had died. And I was looking for an outlet,” Cruz said.

She says she was one of the lucky few who found a strong support system while going through her crisis.

“If I hadn’t had a community that supported me, I don’t know where I would be. And I want to extend that same opportunity and grace to other students who are struggling with similar things,” Cruz said.

She’s talking about Zero Reasons Why, a teen-led program she now works with to help support and mentor other kids who also struggle with mental health.

“There was a sudden increase that started around 2010. And it rose all the way up until about 2020 when it comes to teen suicide attempts and completions,” said Zero Reasons Why Director Jeff Short.

Short says the program started in an attempt to normalize the conversation about mental health and make sure people struggling, especially kids, know that they’re not alone.

Short, Cruz and a team of mental health experts got together Tuesday to discuss the ongoing problem of mental health in teens. Short says this time, the meeting comes with some good news.

“It peaked around 2020, 2021. So we’ve seen a decrease in years since. Nationally the trends are showing an overall slight decrease. And then, in Kansas, we’re showing a decrease that slightly outpaces national trends,” Short explained.

Cruz says while the news is encouraging, the work is far from over.

“My hope is that this stigma would decrease. I think that trying to start a conversation about mental health is still taboo. And I think that it stops a lot of, not even children, but adults from talking about mental health,” Cruz said.

Short says there are lots of ways you can help or get involved with Zero Reasons Why. Click here for more information.