The Speak Stand Save Conference usually involves thousands of students, teachers and community members packing the Grand Canyon University campus.
Together they tackle tough topics like depression, suicide, grief, abuse and bullying. The goal is to educate students about the warning signs and empower them to tell a trusted adult if they notice a friend or classmate is struggling.
Grace Martinez is a student ambassador with the group behind the conference, Speak Up, Stand Up, Save a Life.
Martinez was bullied throughout elementary school and turned to cutting to cope. She credits a middle school friend with noticing her dangerous behavior and telling an adult, a step that kickstarted Martinez's recovery.
"They know where I'm coming from and I know where they're coming from so we can help each other," said Martinez.
Now in its fifth year the free, day-long event will continue in 2021 in a virtual format. It is not ideal, but organizers say it is more needed than ever.
"All of these mental health issues are enhanced," said Dr. Lily DeBlieux, superintendent of the Pendergast School District and co-founder of Speak Up, Stand Up, Save a Life. "There's been a lot of pressure, a lot of stress on staff members and kids and families as well."
Dr. Deblieux says moving the conference online will expand access for K-12 students and teachers across the state, with breakout rooms and an age-appropriate curriculum for each grade level.
"What the students need is for us to listen, to know that we're there for them," said Dr. DeBlieux. "Yes, we want you to learn but we want your heart to feel better first."
For Martinez and her father, Johnny Martinez, this next conference will be a family affair. They both want to remind students and parents they are not alone.
"We are so used to being out with our friends and going out and doing different things that help us feel alive, connected, but we can't do that right now because of the pandemic," said Grace Martinez.
"To encourage parents to seek out that type of help, to let parents know that yeah, it's okay for your kids not to be okay," said Johnny Martinez.
The conference is January 19. Click Here for more information and how to register.