LIMA — Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens. It’s an issue a coalition of mental health professionals and anti-violence advocates is attempting to address.
On Thursday, the Allen County Suicide Prevention Coalition hosted a breakfast for high school administrators and counselors aimed at educating them about a new resource, developed by New York-based Kognito, to give those in the school setting tools for spotting at-risk teens and directing them to help.
“What we want to make sure they do is they have all the information to know what kind of signs to look for, what kind of questions to ask the kids or their peers if they seem troubled and what are the resources we can refer them to,” Donna Dickman, director of the Partnership for Violence Free Families, said. “The majority of folks we lose are adults, however, some of those mental health issues start appearing when they are younger. If we can capture that and get the help that they need, perhaps we wouldn’t lose our adults. We do lose young people, but not as often as adults. Ohio is the 10th leading state for losing teens. We have to be cautious.”
The state purchased a license to online software that is being provided free to every high school in the state to train teachers, administrators and staffers about signs a teen is considering suicide. It includes tips on handling a real-life scenario.
“We have to be there, ready to have the conversation with them. Stigma has led us to believe if we say suicide they are going to do that,” Dickman said. “We can’t. We have to talk about it and be there for them when they have emotional needs.”
Yvette Jackson, a community liaison for the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, said it’s a topic many are hesitant to address.
“A lot of us sometimes feel helpless and don’t know if there is anything we can do. The Kognito program is an online training and it gives us information about how to recognize signs of psychological distress in young people and how to approach them,” Jackson said. “It particularly assists high school educators and administrators and staff, however, anyone can be a community partner and be an ambassador for youth.”
Talking about suicide, forming community coalitions and taking part in training opportunities are all critical elements to addressing the issue of suicide, Jackson said.
“It’s a growing problem. It’s a health issue that is preventable,” Jackson said. “We are still trying to overcome stereotypes because we don’t want to talk about it. We’re afraid if we talk it will result in a suicide. Information and knowledge is key, knowing what to do with that information is vital."