As state and national teen suicide rates continue to climb, the administration at Marion High School is working hard to help students improve their mental health, keeping teen suicides at zero in 2016.
The leaders in this school district should be commended for the work they have accomplished in a county that was rated the highest in childhood poverty just last year.
According to Indiana Youth Institute’s 2017 Kids Count Data Book, 19.8 percent of Indiana high school students seriously considered attempting suicide, which was higher than the national average of 17.7 percent.
However, deputy chief of Marion Police Department, Stephen Dorsey, said that there were eleven suicides in Grant County in 2016, and Tara Street, office manager of the Grant County Health Department, confirmed that none of these suicides were individuals under the age of 18.
Eleven suicides in a year is still far too many, but for being high in childhood poverty, Grant County is doing something right to have had no teen suicides when it was increasing across the state.
Tami Silverman, president and CEO of Indiana Youth Institute, said that many people have been asking what can be done to help prevent suicide since this data was released.
“Overwhelmingly, the largest cause in teen suicide ideation is undiagnosed or underdiagnosed or undertreated mental illness,” Silverman said.
Marion High School counselor, Michael Reeves, said that Marion community schools does a good job at evaluating students for mental illness, which has encouraged students to seek help and find positive ways to relieve stress.
“Poverty and mental illness go hand in hand, but we recognize that as a problem, and we try to evaluate students for mental illness early in their education,” Reeves said.
In May of 2013, a junior high girl committed suicide at McCulloch Junior High School. This event, Reeves said, led the administration to begin encouraging students to reach out to school counselors for help.
Ultimately, children and teens need trusted adult figures who can help them cope with life’s toughest challenges or who can find professional help for that child, Silverman said.
“Many communities have dealt with teens who have taken their lives. Our goal as a community and as adults is to talk about it more so that we can prevent it. The bright side as far as teen suicide goes is that it is preventable,” Silverman said. “It just takes all of us to really understand what those signs are then know what to do. Again, who to connect the kids and families to, how to outreach, and how to make sure we get that professional intervention.”
After coping with the teen suicide in 2013, Marion High School administration has implemented a 24-hour bullying hotline to the school website, and counselors are on school property to assess students’ needs and contact the appropriate organization for help, whether that be Marion General Hospital, Cornerstone, or Department of Child Services.
In adopting these strategies, Marion community schools are fighting for the youth in Grant County.
“We still have a high rate of mental illness, but the treatment is handled differently now. The stigma that was associated with treatment before is no longer prevalent,” Reeves said.