MIDDLEBURG – Four suicides in the past five months in the Midd-West and Southern Columbia School Districts have the community looking for more focus on mental health issues and bullying. Joanne Troutman, President and CEO of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, says a Youth Mental Health Task Force was set up since December.
But after these latest incidents, she says they hope to encourage students to be more empathetic, “Kids just don’t have safe spaces anymore. The school a lot of times, and I think part of the reason people blame the schools, is because schools are a safe place for kids. When you add to that the issue of social media or online gaming, kids cannot get away from that.”
Troutman says a current focus for the United Way is becoming more trauma-informed, and looking to pass that into schools, “When you add the death of a friend or a classmate, it can create a world of hurt. It’s not just about creating understanding environments around children; it’s also about helping adults in the lives of children better look at it. I want to make sure people understand the community is taking this seriously, schools are taking this seriously.”
Troutman says the United Way is also looking to expand mental health programs in schools, “We’ve been talking with the Department of Education, we’ve been talking with the Department of Human Services, we’ve been talking with health insurers, who are all at the table to help address sort of the financial barriers and regulatory barriers that exist getting kids services and getting schools programs.”
Dr. Nicole Quinlan, a Pediatric Psychologist at Geisinger, will join WKOK Sunrise Thursday morning to talk about signs of suicide parents should look out for, and what leads suicide.