ROANOKE, Va. – Nearly 19% of 10th and 12th graders across the Roanoke Valley say they wanted to take their own lives in the past year, according to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
This startling statistic is why Roanoke agencies are banding together to raise awareness about youth mental health this month.
Mental health illnesses like depression, anxiety are on the rise along with suicide rates.
The coronavirus pandemic exasperating this crisis to another level.
“It’s always been here,” Carilion Clinic Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Chair Dr. Robert Trestman said. “These are not rare illnesses.”
But the Suicide Prevention Council of Roanoke Valley and Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare are joining forces to spread awareness.
Throughout the month, they are hosting sticker and video contests to have the youth, teach the youth.
For the sticker contest, middle and high school students can draw a sticker with a positive message about mental health and three students will win $50.
The video contest will award three people $100.
“They want to listen to their peers way more than they want to listen to their parents or other adults,” Tudor House Executive Director Kathleen Thorell said.
Thorell helps run the Tudor House which is a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention in honor of Louis Tudor.
She said they aim to change society’s mindsets by valuing all aspects of health.
“People feel like it’s okay to have a broken leg and take some time off for that,” she said. “But it’s not okay to be depressed and have anxiety and take time off for that.”
Dr. Trestman said we need to encourage children to express their emotions now before they go down the wrong path.
“Childhood trauma contributes substantially to the risk, to the vulnerability of teenagers and adults in subsequent years by experiencing depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders,” he said.
Thorell said Roanoke schools are already kicking off the month with students writing positive notes.
But to find out more details about the contests or how else you can participate in the movement, you can visit the Resiliency Collective website.