Editorial: We must devote more effort to teen mental health help

A recent editorial by the Youngstown Vindicator:

Though it seems as though every day we hear more and more agencies acknowledging the terrible toll taken by COVID-19 on mental health, particularly for our children, it took a while to get to the point of action to reverse the problem.

According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, a policy research group, 38 states enacted nearly 100 laws to support mental health in our schools last year, while dozens more became law this year in at least 22 states. Indeed, Ohio is among them.

According to Mental Health America, nationwide more than 60 percent of children who experience a severe depressive episode do not receive treatment. But when these results are broken down by state, Ohio is a bit above average, with 60-69 percent totals. We are doing better than only Texas, Mississippi, Arizona and Hawaii on that front.

While we are taking steps in the right direction, the Buckeye State must do more to help young people who are in mental health crisis seek and receive treatment. Teachers, school administrators and parents should be educated on what to do when they see a child struggling with mental health issues, and be able to assist in getting them the help they need.

It goes beyond training, though. There is other action to take.

“Schools need to create a safe and open culture where kids know it’s OK to talk about suicide and mental illness,” said Julie Goldstein Grumet, vice president of the Education Development Center, a policy research group. “Training is great and important, but it has to be embedded in a comprehensive approach where it’s not ‘one and done.’”

Better to take this as a wake-up call and spring to action now, than to be shaken into action by a tragedy later.

— Youngstown Vindicator, May 10