MIAMI COUNTY — Statistics show an increase in diagnosed mental illnesses, and with suicide remaining the second leading cause of death for teens and young adults, more schools are getting staff — and even students — trained in how to respond to someone who may be in a mental health crisis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide “is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States” and is “the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age.” According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “in 2013 and 2014, children ages 10 to 14 were more likely to die from suicide than in a motor vehicle accident.”
CDC statistics also show an increased number of adolescents with depression and anxiety, including the number of children ever “having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression” among children aged 6 to 17 years old increased from 5.4 percent in 2003, to 8 percent in 2007, and to 8.4 percent in 2011-2012.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also reported the “number of adolescents who experienced major depressive episodes increased by nearly a third from 2005 to 2014.” They also described a “major depressive episode” with an adolescent as an adolescent experiencing “symptoms of depression most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks in the year.”
Director of Community Resource Development Brad Reed at the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services explained reports of occurrences of diagnosed mental health illnesses have increased across the board. While statistics regarding mental health illnesses show them increasing, these increases may be attributed to more people willing to seek help as stigma around mental health declines.
“More people are talking about it,” Reed said.
Regardless of whether those reports of mental illnesses are new and increasing or were just previously under-reported, the Tri-County Board, along with the support of other entities like the 5K Free the Mind/Anchor the Soul and the Upper Valley Medical Center Foundation, are helping schools get trained in mental health first aid, particularly “QPR training,” which stands for question, persuade, and refer. QPR training is designed to teach people how to recognize the signs of a mental health crisis, how to ask a question and the right kind of questions, and how to get help. It also dispels myths and discusses clues and warning signs.
QPR is suicide specific, and the Tri-County Board offers varying levels of training, from one to three hours-worth of training. Director of Prevention and Education Beth Adkins at the Tri-County Board said they primarily do QPR training for teachers, job and family services employees, and corrections officers, noting there is a higher risk of suicide at local jails than in prison. The Tri-County Board has also been able to teach some students QPR training, like the newly-implemented Hope Squad at the Tippecanoe High School.
One of the Tri-County Board’s partners in reaching more teachers and other school staff members with its QPR training was the nonprofit 5K Free the Mind/Anchor the Soul, which was founded by a local couple from West Milton, Mike and Stacy Warner, whose son took his life. Free the Mind/Anchor the Soul raises awareness on mental health and has helped the Tri-County Board get more schools trained in mental health first aid and QPR training.
Tri-County Board has also worked with the Upper Valley Medical Center Foundation to receive funding to train school staff on mental health first aid and QPR training so there would be no cost to the schools to receive this training.
“We had a really good response,” Reed said. The Tri-County Board has worked with schools in West Milton, Tipp City, and Troy, along with the Upper Valley Career Center.
The Tri-County Board also offers more extensive mental health first aid training, which teaches the following:
• Risk factors and warning signs of mental health concerns.
• Information on depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis, and substance abuse.
• A 5-step action plan to help someone developing a mental health concern or in crisis.
• Available evidence-based professional, peer, and self-help resources.
There is also a mental health first aid course that is specifically about youth, which “reviews the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents ages 12-18.” According to the Tri-County Board’s website, “It emphasizes the importance of early intervention and covers how to help an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge. The youth course is intended for anyone 16 years or older to learn how to help young people.”
Reed discussed the benefits of providing mental health first aid and QPR training, beginning with how it can help reduce the stigma around mental health. Those who undergo it can get a better understanding of mental health disorders, taking away the mystery and the myths surrounding it.
Another benefit of getting as many teachers, counselors, bus drivers, and other staff members trained in QPR is it decreases the chance of a juvenile in crisis slipping through the cracks.
“That’s a lot of eyes on these students,” Reed said.
If a student is exhibiting signs that things aren’t going well, Reed said, then they can do something.
“It gives you tools on how to respond and how to take the next step,” Reed said. He added their goal is not to turn the general public into mental health professionals, but to help people recognize when someone may be in a mental health crisis and how to help that person get help. “We’re not teaching people how to diagnose or treat mental health,” he said.
A third benefit is that students can become more comfortable expressing their needs. Reed said increasing the opportunity for early intervention with someone dealing with a mental health disorder can decrease the number of juveniles who get into a crisis.
Another resource the Tri-County Board offers with schools is PAX Good Behavior Games, which is in partnership with the Miami County Educational Service Center.
“It’s a huge prevention program,” Reed said. He explained the program goes along with many schools’ Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programming and helps schools help students to become more resilient and build self-regulation. According the PAX Good Behavior Games’ website, the program provides social and emotional learning, as well as reinforces desirable behaviors and inhibits unwanted behaviors, helping children to “develop agency and command to delay gratification and reduce impulsivity.”
The Tri-County Board also offers a program called Hidden in Plain Sight, which is an awareness education program that teaches adults the signs and indicators of substance abuse with children. The Tri-County Board also has over 50 volunteers on its crisis response teams.
For more information about these services, visit the Tri-County Board’s website at www.tcbmds.org or contact the Tri-County Board at (937) 335-7727. The Tri-County Board’s 24-hour Crisis Hotline is (800) 351-7347.
The Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC) Foundation was incorrectedly called the Premier Health Foundation. The Miami Valley Today regrets this error.