By Linda Hall / Staff Writer
Posted Mar 25, 2018 at 12:01 AM
WOOSTER — Given the increase in teenage suicides across Ohio and in nearby counties, local agencies and schools are making sure necessary mental health services are available.
In Wayne County, “there has been one suicide of a young person under the age of 18 and one 18-year-old in the last three years,” Coroner Amy Jolliff said, noting, “At this time, we’re not seeing any trend toward (more suicides among youth).”
Even so, because of what has been occurring in the surrounding areas such as Stark County, where there has been a rash of teen suicides recently, local prevention efforts have been stepped up.
“You pay extra attention when things happen around you,” Jolliff said.
Schools and other youth-oriented organizations are focusing on preventive measures.
“What we use is QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer),” said Judy Wortham Wood, the director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Wayne and Holmes Counties, pointing out that school districts have been training their counselors, teachers, leadership and support staff in this suicide prevention program that urges, “Ask a Question, Save a Life.”
QPR is offered through MHRB by certified trainers and can be tailored for adults, youth and school settings, Wortham Wood said.
By the end of the month, more than 500 school personnel in Wayne County will have been trained in QPR, Wortham Wood said, at the Wayne County Schools Career Center and in the Northwestern, Wooster City, Triway, Rittman, Orville and Southeast school districts.
“We trained our psychiatrists, nurses, guidance counselors and administrators,” said Wooster district director of student services Jennifer Crum, “within the last two years.”
In partnering with area agencies, the district is “intensely committed” to mental health services, which “we want to expand,” Crum said, highlighting the district’s existing expenditure of $1.3 million a year for psychologists, guidance counselors and clinical therapists. Additionally, staff participate in providing service coordination and wrap-around services.
Citing many mental health tools available, QPR, Crum said, is particularly helpful in offering “the right protocols, the right set of questions, the right persuasions and the right referrals for response by the district.”
At The College of Wooster, training was made available to incoming freshmen this year, in addition to presenting it at new student orientation and in some fall semester classes, said licensed social worker Vicki Hartzler, adding, the University of Akron Wayne College trained 363 people over the spring and fall.
“This program has been successful in reaching 433 students and staff through QPR training and another 86 with suicide prevention and other mental health information,” Hartzler said. And trainers are “committed to continuing programming on mental health issues, including suicide prevention, which is a success in itself.”
The tragedy of suicide cuts across the socio-economic divide, said Wortham Wood. It also cuts across age groups.
A spike in suicides occurred in 2008, she said, noting, “The recession came at that time. We started having more suicides during that period. More middle-aged men contemplated suicide during those years.”
The original grant (for QPR), received in 2012, was from the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation, Wortham Wood said. “Our first year goal was to train medical professionals.” based on “research show(ing) that people often talk to a health professional within 30 days (of attempting or committing suicide).”
“Then our second year was to train school personnel, with the third year focused on maintaining our trainings,” she said. “The need is ongoing.”
“QPR suicide prevention, like CPR, teaches what we need to know to ‘save a life,’” Wortham Wood said, emphasizing the one-hour training is evidence-based practice,” encompassing “issues that should always be covered.”
The training “goes through signs to look for, what to ask and how to be attentive,” she said, adding, “Ask specifically whether (someone) is thinking about it.”
“We need to be better trained,” said Jolliff. “If it saves a life, this is great.”
When a person trained in QPR refers someone believed to be contemplating suicide to an agency or counselor, it’s important to accompany them, if possible, or assist them in making the call.
Help is available, not just from one agency, but from many agencies with “a variety of services” that are affordable and accessible, Wortham Wood said. “Right now we need to get the word out to schools and businesses.”
Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-264-1125, Ext. 2230. She is @lindahallTDRon Twitter.