(Canton, Ohio) – The Stark County Educational Service Center is offering feedback on recent data collected by surveying more than 15,000 mostly Stark County students last school year.
The survey was administered to students in 7th-12th grades following the suicides of 12 students between August of 2017 and March of 2018. CDC officials were alarmed by this as it is more than seven times the national rate and 11 times the rate in Stark County between 2011 and 2016.
ESC Assistant Superintendent Marty Bowe explained that it is critical that educators, parents and community members are cognizant of the results. “Our students are growing up in a time very different from their parents, and they need our involvement more than ever,” he said. “The importance of the assessment was to listen directly to the kids. The results are consistent in telling us one thing – all kids need a trusted adult. Someone they know they can go to for anything. Ideally, this would be parents, but every young person needs that adult they can confide in and trust.”
Key findings from the survey listed in a previously published article on Newsymom.com include:
- 56% of participating students feel lonely
- Nearly 14% of participating Stark County students who have ever attempted suicide have access to a gun.
- Risk of suicide is significantly higher among adolescents who use social media for two hours or more each day.
- Only 1 in 2 students feel he or she is a ‘part of my school.’ And is ‘happy to be at my school.’
- Nearly 1 in 4 students live with someone who is depressed, mentally ill or suicidal.
- 3 in 10 students stated they have a mental health problem.
- 1 in 5 students has thought of suicide, and 1 in 11 has attempted suicide at least once.
Bowe added that the ESC has been working to address these concerns for several months, but also plans to take even more specific action following the assessment results. Officials are focusing on strengthening access and delivery of suicide care, creating protective environments, promoting connectedness, teaching coping and problem-solving skills, identifying & supporting people at risk, and lessening harm and preventing future risk.
A few specific steps ESC is taking to achieve the above; stronger partnerships that allow for decreased wait times for access to behavioral health care services; enhancing trauma-informed care and resiliency training in schools; increase programs related to student development; Increase school-based prevention services; establishing more survivor support after suicide loss; postvention training for districts; and enhanced resource and information training.
“We are committed to do everything possible to help our kids,” added ESC Superintendent Joe Chaddock, “They told us clearly in this survey that many of them are hurting. We need to help them build resiliency and restore hope. I would ask our community adults to get involved in the lives of our youngsters – you can make a difference by being there and being available.”