BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and together with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, of Greater Toledo, Maumee City Schools hosted an event for area families to learn more about how to spread awareness and help teens and young adults in the area.
Those in attendance at the September 13 event were able to hear from a family navigator at NAMI, as well as MHS student Hala Jabri before watching Ending the Silence, a film presentation that features personal testimonials on mental health.
The organizers of the event hoped to raise awareness of all types of mental illness and provide resources for families who may be navigating a mental health journey.
Jen Campos, a Maumee City Schools parent, said it was important to provide information to other parents on what resources are available when navigating mental health and what signs to look out for when it comes to mental illness.
“I just want to encourage everyone to talk with their kids and grab information,” Campos said. “I hope you never need it, but if you do, now you know.”
Jabri, Campos’s daughter, spoke during the presentation about her journey with mental health and what information she thinks is vital for both young adults and their parents and caregivers to be aware of along the journey.
“I wanted to help because there is a huge mental health crisis going on right now,” Jabri said. “Mental health is as important as physical health. You wouldn’t try to manage asthma on your own, so I encourage you to not try to manage mental health on your own.”
When speaking to the attendees, Jabri used her personal experiences with mental illness and suicide, offering a teen’s perspective on mental health and the stigma surrounding mental illness.
She said it was a difficult journey for her, but she has been able to seek help from professionals who have helped her find coping mechanisms in addition to medication options that have helped improve her mental health.
“You don’t walk the mental health journey alone,” said NAMI family navigator Sarah Gross.
Providing multiple trusted sources, so teens know where to turn when experiencing a mental health crisis, is important, the presenters agreed.
Adults in the schools and community must also know how to support the teens and young adults in their lives, or have access to more resources, which the event provided, Gross noted.
Additionally, if a parent, caregiver, teacher or fellow community member is concerned about a student or other young person, it’s essential they know the signs to look out for when it comes to a mental health condition, which can include a drastic change in behavior, severe mood swings, drastic changes in sleeping habits, difficulty concentrating or staying still, a severe change in diet, repeated use of drugs or alcohol, trying to harm themselves or making plans to kill themselves.
According to NAMI, 1 in 6 youths between the ages of 6 and 17 will experience a mental health disorder each year, and 50 percent of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, in 2021, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Ohioans between the ages of 10 and 34.
In order to help prevent suicide, it can be lifesaving to know to pay attention to the signs of suicide risk, which include talk of not being here tomorrow, giving away belongings, feeling hopeless or trapped, behaving recklessly or looking for ways to attempt suicide. Seeking help immediately and providing resources is crucial, Gross said.
It can be hard for those experiencing a mental health condition to want to reach out for support themselves, though.
It is not shameful, however, Jabri told the crowd.
“It is important to point out that mental health problems don’t define who you are,” she said.
Several local organizations were available to provide resources and information to families following the event.
Attendees were able to ask specific questions of representatives at each booth and leave with pamphlets, cards and more.
“When I was struggling to find information, I didn’t know where to go. I was looking on the internet and feeling overwhelmed, so I hope this is very helpful,” Campos said of the booths.
Organizations with booths included Arrowhead Behav-ioral Health, Buckeye Health Plan, Harbor, Lucas County Suicide Prevention Coalition, Lutheran Social Services, Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County, Mercy Health Toledo Trauma Recovery Center, NAMI, ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital Pediatric Psychiatry Department, The University of Toledo Kobacker Center and Maumee United Methodist Church Youth Programs.
More information, in addition to resources, can be found on the websites for each organization.
Attendees were also made aware of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, reached by phone by dialing 988, which is available for those in distress to provide free and confidential support.
The event was sponsored by Bella & Company Creations, Brookie’s Cookies, Buckeye Health Plan, Dale’s Bar & Grill, Eddie’s Home Team of ReMax Preferred Associates, PizzAroma of Maumee and Youth MOVE Ohio.