The community of Perry Township is looking for answers after six teenagers took their own lives in six months.
Pam Budak has worked with families and children at Bellefaire JCB, a child services agency in Shaker Heights. She said the answer to dealing with students needing mental health help is to hire clinical counselors to school staffs.
“They can help provide treatment for mental health conditions at the school,” she said.
Brunswick City Schools did just that and hired a clinical counselor after two students there took their own lives in 2014.
The Brunswick City School District applied for a federal grant to hire a clinical counselor through the U.S. Department of Education.
After the grant ran out, the district said they saw some success. Many children were getting the help they needed, so the counselor was then hired by the district to continue working.
“Guidance counselor can make mental health referrals to the counselor,” said Budak, Bellefaire JCB Director of Community Services. “That mental health counselor can help the teachers understand what is going on with the student.”
Superintendent Michael Mayell said the district also added procedures to help students deal with mental health crisis situations and transition back into the classroom, along with their families.
“When a child feels supported within their family system, they are likely to have more success and better experiences out in the community,” said Budak.
This string of suicides is not just happening in Perry Township or Northeast Ohio. A recent CDC report shows a 33 percent increase in teens experiencing depression, and a 23 percent increase in suicide attempts across the nation. Researchers found the increase began in 2012 - around the same time a majority of teens began owning smartphones.
“Social media is a big thing, where lots of things can occur,” said Budak. “So parents need to be aware of what's going on in social media.”
Experts told News 5 the most important thing is to build your child up and have a close relationship with them, in order to help them develop high self-esteem and self-worth.