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Motivational speaker Morris Morrison at South Iredell High School on Friday afternoon. 

South Iredell High School students discussed confidence, success and their own self worth Friday as part of the school system’s larger focus on mental health.

Students filled seats at the school’s auditorium to hear motivational speaker Morris Morrison share the story behind his own life. Morrison had his father taken away at a young age when he says he was wrongfully convicted for an assault, and a few years later he would lose his grandmother, who was acting as his main caretaker.

“I had to learn at an early age that I was on my own,” Morrison said. “And that no one was going to take care of me.”

He admitted that wasn’t entirely true, as he developed a wealth of role models and mentors, but also credited his own work ethic in school and business. Students flashed smiles as he shared almost cartoonish anecdotes of how he thought life was supposed to operate, but Morrison kept his personal growth at the forefront of every obstacle.

“The reason I appear to be confident is because I respect myself,” Morrison remarked.

He also asked for a show of hands if students knew of anyone who at one point had considered suicide; a sea of palms went into the air.

“No matter how hard your life is, what you got to remember is (that) it can always be worse,” Morrison said. “I’m not trying to preach at you, I’m just giving you stories from my life.”

Morrison’s visit comes as educators across the county are improving their knowledge and training to know signs to aid in suicide prevention and mental health awareness. A press release from Iredell-Statesville Schools said Morrison met with faculty and staff on Thursday and charged them with “doing whatever it takes to reach our youth.”

The release added educators also participated in the “Talk Saves Lives” training program, presented by Betsy Rhodes of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The program outlines trouble signs and risk factors, along with who can help those thinking about suicide, according to the release.

“We are very much committed to the idea of a ‘champion for every child’ in the Iredell-Statesville Schools,” Superintendent Brady Johnson stated. “Since school started this school year, we have trained almost 2,500 educators to recognize warning signs of suicidal ideation, depression and anxiety. We are keenly aware that this topic, (it’s) of utmost importance in schools across the country today. We intend to face it head-on in the Iredell-Statesville Schools.”

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