Mental health in teens, encouraging youth to be seen

LIMA — The issue concerning mental health is not a new one to the world around us. Nationally, May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. The hope is to shed light on mental illness. Locally, the City of Lima and the Allen County Commissioners commemorated the month by declaring a proclamtion naming May as Mental Health Awareness Month within this region. Both city and county entities recognized mental health does not discriminate against ethnicity, socio-economic background or gender.

Mental health in teens

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall number of teenagers reporting struggles with their mental health is increasing. Executive Director Tammie Colon recently shared statistics on the rate of depression and serious emotional disturbance in Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties.

“When we talk about major depression, it’s another level of depression that interferes with their ability to function and they’re physically not well,” said Colon. “In Allen County, 5.5% of our youth reported that, the overall in Ohio being 3.7% (of youth). Students in Allen County that reported Serious Emotional Disturbance or SED was 17.5%; in Ohio it is 12.9%. In Auglaize County the rate is 15.4% and in Hardin it is 18.3%. In all three of our counties (we serve), youth are meeting a high threshold of being seriously emotionally disturbed.”


Colon said the Mental Health and Recovery Service Board is responsible for coordinating and identifying needed services for the community.

“So the board is investing in that workforce development and we can because we have a levy,” said Colon. “We have a crisis center and a great inpatient psychiatric hospital. I’m still hopeful. I am probably most concerned about our youth. If we don’t get them reset, then it’s going to be a lot of adults who need services.”

There are several resources throughout the surrounding counties for mental health ranging from places like SAFY Lima Behavioral Health to Family Resource Center. Although the resources are here, Colon said, “We need more soldiers.”

“We need people who are equally educated and capable of assisting us in this crisis and allow them to be licensed and allow them to help us out,” said Colon. “I think that we have to, we have to increase on Medicaid reimbursement rates. There, Medicaid takes care of the most vulnerable people in our community, including people with mental health.”

Early intervention

One way to continue to combat mental health is tackling the potential problem at an early age, and Colon said the board has taken steps to address emotions as early as preschool-age.

“We’re teaching kids to identify their feelings, because that’s what we’ve struggled to do that in this country,” said Colon. “We’ve got a whole bunch of names for the same feeling and it gets very confusing. We teach them how they can self regulate, make themselves feel better. I think in the third grade, we’re doing suicide prevention in schools and we’re doing programming on how to say no to drugs and to your peers.”

Colon also said it is important to address mental health concerns early on because teens who may be struggling will soon become adults wrestling with mental health.

Court system rehabilitation

The Allen County Juvenile Court system daily encounters teenagers. The court system has also created avenues to aid in rehabilitating local youth. Judge Todd Kohlrieser aid the court system has a behavioral health navigator and a psychologist who helps with teenagers as needed. The system is also in the process of creating a crisis center for the youth in the area.

“The idea was to expand services and opportunities for the kids,” said Kohlrieser. “Sometimes you have a child that has an argument with a parent late at night. The goal at some point is to have that Access Center.”

Kohlrieser said fortunately he has had juveniles and families share how the rehabilitation has helped them move forward. He also said he does continue to see the increased need among adolescents.

“There is an increase that I have observed of juveniles experiencing mental health and substance abuse over the past couple of years,” said Kohlrieser. “I don’t know why we are seeing it more but I can say it’s more common.”

Getting help

Colon and Kohlrieser encouraged parents noticing changes in behavior or teenagers experiencing new emotions to reach out for help.

“It’s new to parents and it’s new to juveniles,” said Kohlrieser. “It’s a difficult situation and topic to discuss, but don’t internalize it. Don’t just think, ‘Oh, it’s nothing, it’ll go away.’ The best thing you can do is talk to somebody about it, whether that’s a parent, a teacher, a pastor, even another friend, just talk about it, because, you know, let somebody else in and let them try to help you.”

Colon also enouraged parents to observe if there are any changes in their teenagers’ activities, grades or mood.

“We have (mental health) screenings on our website that are free,” said Colon. “They’re just web based, anybody can take them. We encourage people to either take them as if it’s for themselves or you can even pretend you’re the person you’re concerned about. The screening will tell you whether they recommend you go on for further evaluation.”

For any in crisis reach the HopeLine at 1-800-567-4673. To text message a person during crisis use 988 line or 741741.

Reach Precious Grundy at 567-242-0351.