Concerns over children’s mental health rise as school begins in Dayton area
“We’re seeing more kids, and we’re seeing more kids in crisis,” Blankenship said.
Suicide deaths on the rise among children
Suicide among teens and young adults was already a concern as the COVID-19 pandemic causes disruption and challenges. Data shows that these suicides are increasing in many parts of Ohio and nationally.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among children ages 10 to 14 in Ohio and the second leading cause of death among ages 15 to 34, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Nationwide, ER visits for attempted suicide among teenage girls increased 51% from 2019 to 2021.
In a recent survey of students from several counties in Ohio, about 18-26% of students in Clark and Erie counties said they had seriously thought about wanting to kill themselves.
“The numbers are really scary,” Blankenship said. “In some areas it’s around one in four children.”
From 2011 to 2020, suicide deaths increased 189% among Ohioans aged 10 to 14, from nine to 26 deaths. Suicide deaths among Ohioans between the ages of 15 and 19 also peaked in 2018 at 104, but declined to 64 in 2020.
In Dayton-area counties, suicide death rates per 100,000 people between 2016 and 2020 ranged from 12.0 in Warren County to 20.1 in Clark County, according to the ODH. Montgomery County falls in the middle with a rate of 15.3 suicide deaths per 100,000 population.
Consistency, connection is key
One way parents can help is to provide children with a quiet environment and a regular schedule.
“Having a schedule is really key,” Blankenship said.
Health experts have found that children in families who eat dinner together are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Blankenship said the key is having uninterrupted family time together, “a time when the kids are with their parents and they can have fun with each other.”
Also, feeling connected with adults and peers can help children. When children feel supported by a sense of belonging at school, the CDC found that they were less likely to report lingering feelings of sadness or hopelessness than those who did not. They were less likely to report having seriously considered attempting suicide (14% versus 26%), and they were also less likely to have attempted suicide (6% versus 12%).
“Research shows us that a caring adult in every child’s life makes all the difference in how that child can cope and manage life,” said Shannon Cox, superintendent of the Montgomery County Education Service Center.
“There isn’t an educator on this planet who doesn’t believe in being that caring adult for one of their students. But it can also be the guardian. It can be the bus driver, it can be the coach, the athletic trainer, it can be the principal, it can be the school counselor.
Doctors also encourage parents to talk to their children when their children feel anxious. Premier Physician Network child psychiatrist Dr Mark Casdorph said it was normal to see stress and anxiety in children, especially when they return to school. Parents should talk to their children to try to identify if there are particular issues that concern them, he said.
“Go ahead and start that dialogue,” Casdorph said.
Parents can ask, “What do your friends say about this?” or “How do you know?” »
Casdorph also recommended that parents monitor the types of media children absorb and feel comfortable setting limits.
Suppliers in the region are also expanding to meet these growing needs. Dayton Children’s Hospital is adding a $100 million behavioral health center slated to open in 2025, and the state is funding $25 million of that expansion with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“It’s going to allow us to almost double our crisis center,” Blankenship said.
Dayton Children’s also has satellite offices, such as in Troy and Beavercreek, as it expands its presence in Springboro and adds therapy services in Huber Heights. Doctors recommend contacting a child’s pediatrician first if a parent or guardian is concerned about their child’s mental and/or behavioral health.
Dayton Children’s also offers support through its On Our Sleeves program, which is a nationwide movement to raise awareness about children’s mental health. It works to break down stigma, as well as connect families and educators to local resources.
Dayton Children’s partners with local school districts to provide School Resilience Coordinators. Dayton Public Schools has students work with resilience coordinators for long-term counseling needs, and the coordinators also involve parents and teachers in the process. For short-term counseling needs, DPS has student behavioral counselors and therapists available.
Help is available
For children in crisis, 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is operational 24/7 with free, confidential support for those in distress. The crisis line for Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) is 833-580-CALL (2255).
Additional crisis lines include:
- Clark County at 937-399-9500
- Warren and Clinton counties at 1-877-695-6333 (NEED)
- Butler County at 1-844-427-4747 or 1-844-4CRISIS
- Greene County at 937-376-8701
- Darke County, Miami County, Shelby County at 1-800-351-7347
Learn more or find Dayton Children’s Mental Health Resource Directory at www.childrensdayton.org/mental-health-resource-directory.