Mental health professionals discuss importance of suicide prevention in youth

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Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 6:05 PM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - It’s an issue that mental health professionals said is growing more prevalent.

“I think it was a recent report from 2019 that I was looking at earlier that said one in five middle school students and one in seven high school students have reported seriously considering suicide in the past 12 months,” said Perry County Schools District Health Coordinator Cris Rush.

The statistics Rush mentioned is referencing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Kentucky Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Children and young adults can display signs of declining mental health in various ways, including changes in behavior or loss of interest in things they previously enjoyed.

“You may see a decline in hygiene or them taking care of themselves or how they dress or how they look, if there’s a drastic change in that,” said behavioral health specialist Dr. Jonathan Martin.

Mental health professionals like Dr. Martin said it is important for caregivers and teachers to be proactive when it comes to their kids’ mental health; making it a point to check in even before those signs are there.

“At no time can we take for granted that people will reach out and get the help, so we have to ask,” said Rush. “If we see any signs at all, we have to ask, ‘hey, how are you doing? Are you doing okay? Something seems different, can we talk about it?’ and normalize those conversations.”

Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health is vital in inspiring our youth to reach out for help, and this movement starts with us.

“Times change and so we have to be willing to change with it,” said mental health coordinator for Perry County Central High School and Buckhorn, Lee Francis. “You have to be proactive and you have to go find those things and then you have to be willing to do those things once you make that plan. We say this to the kids, but we have to do those things for ourselves, too.”

Rush said there are multiple resources available for kids to utilize if they are experiencing suicidal tendencies, like texting the number “988″ to be connected with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.