Youth forum puts spotlight on mental health

LIMA — The topic of mental health can be a sensitive one even when dealing with adults, but it becomes even more so when centered around children and adolescents. A new effort is now underway to tackle this issue of youth mental health and it started Saturday with a forum at Heir Force Community School.

Centered around young people from fifth grade into high school, Saturday’s forum aimed to remove the stigma around mental health and help young people reach a better understanding of what factors can contribute to mental health issues as well as signs to look for that could indicate if someone is struggling in this area.

“It’s a win-win for Lima today for allowing us to do this with the kids,” Lima 6th Ward Councilor and Heir Force board vice-president Derry Glenn said. “This is just letting them know the basics. We’re not going to be able to give all the information to them, but we want to let them know that this is real. If you see your friend acting a little bit different, this is who you can get in contact with or you can tell the parents about it.”

Along with Glenn, participants heard from Heir Force executive director Willie Higgins and Patricia Hampshire, chair of the Addictions, Mental Health and Social Work Assistant program at Rhodes State College. In his position at Heir Force, Higgins has seen the need to foster awareness concerning mental health for students and their families.

“From an educator standpoint, we see this day in and day out,” he said. “Kids are dealing with trauma, and through that trauma, it is important for individuals to find coping mechanisms and solutions on how to deal with emotional distress and things that may be impacting their ability to function in a normal capacity on a day-to-day basis.”

Glenn and Higgins are hoping to make this forum an annual event and to create other avenues for students to foster good mental health.

“We’re working on having a mental health club [at Heir Force],” Glenn said. “They can go around and talk about it and educate other youth on it. If you hear it from youth, they will listen more.”