The Ohio School Safety Summit has shifted its focus towards a pressing issue that demands immediate attention, the mental health of children and young adults.
Disturbing studies have revealed that the state’s youth are grappling with mental health challenges at an alarming rate, with suicide now ranking as the second leading cause of death among this vulnerable population.
Dr. Lisa Deranek, Medina County Coroner, expressed her concern over the increasing prevalence of youth suicide, emphasizing that children as young as thirteen have tragically lost their lives to this devastating issue.
In some cases, these young victims were high-achieving students, further highlighting the indiscriminate nature of mental health struggles among adolescents. Within just two weeks, Dr. Deranek faced the heart-wrenching reality of three suicides, all involving individuals under the age of 21.
In Medina County, one initiative that offers hope and support to those impacted by suicide is ‘The L.O.S.S. Team’ – Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors. Comprised of dedicated members like Gail Houk, this team acts swiftly, providing assistance and resources to grieving families in the aftermath of a suicide.
Their focus extends beyond immediate support, recognizing that individuals who have lost a family member to suicide are at a higher risk themselves. By offering access to grief counseling and long-term treatment, ‘The L.O.S.S. Team’ aims to break the cycle of pain and vulnerability that can emerge from such tragedies.
Prioritizing Mental Health in Schools
In the pursuit of prevention, Devan Althen, a prevention specialist in Medina County, works closely with schools to implement programs that prioritize mental health support in middle and elementary schools. One such program gaining traction is ‘Hope Squads.’
Composed of specially trained student teams, these ‘Hope Squads’ serve as a crucial support system for their peers, encouraging open communication and crisis management. The emphasis on prevention in schools is vital, as early intervention can significantly impact the trajectory of a young person’s mental health journey.
By empowering students to engage in supportive conversations and equipping them with valuable crisis management skills, ‘Hope Squads’ foster a culture of understanding, compassion, and empathy within school communities.
The Ohio School Safety Summit’s focus on kids and mental health serves as a wake-up call for the state and the nation at large. The rising prevalence of youth suicide demands urgent action and collaboration across communities, schools, and mental health professionals.
By recognizing the importance of early intervention, providing comprehensive mental health support, and fostering a culture of compassion, we can work together to protect and nurture the well-being of our most vulnerable population – our children and young adults.
As Ohio seeks to address this critical issue, let us stand together as a community to break the silence surrounding mental health, offer unwavering support to those in need, and build a future where the mental well-being of our youth is given the attention and care it truly deserves.