Superintendent Michele Starkey

Michele Starkey

Mental health among young students has become an increasing problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for children between 10 and 14 years old and the third leading cause of death for young people between 10 and 24 years old.

Logansport Community School Corporation is determined to make people more aware of the problem. The school addressed growing concerns about self-harm in students at the Cass County Student Mental Health Night at McHale Auditorium on Tuesday evening in the hopes of educating parents and community members about how they can help.

“We see a lot more of it than we used to,” Logansport Community School Corporation Lead Guidance Counselor Andie Nichols said about self-harm. “It’s trending up.”

The school invited Dr. Kestrel Homer, a counselor at 4C Health, to share data and mental health trends she has noticed among adolescents. Nichols said she was surprised to hear that diverting attention away from emotional pain and causing themselves to cry are two of the reasons kids decide to harm themselves.

“I never looked at it like that,” she said. “They were looking for that physical reason to cry to handle the emotions that they were dealing with. Self-harm was the way they were able to do that. Then there’s the escape of being able to avoid the current thought of what’s hurting and focus on the physical pain.”

Crying can be healthy and cleansing, Nichols added. She said crying is an important way to release emotions for many people. People who struggle to cry, however, might not be able to physically release those emotions as easily.

“(Self-harm) is not the means of getting there,” Nichols said. “If they’re able to make that connection, then they’re able to make some connections to healthy coping mechanisms as well.”

Nichols and Superintendent Michele Starkey encouraged people struggling with their mental health to reach out to the 988 suicide and crisis hotline, someone involved with the Cass County Zero Suicide Task Force, or organizations like 4C Health.

“We’re just going to keep sharing this information because it’s so important,” Starkey said. “Not only for our kids and parents of our kids, but if somebody else needs help. It’s important.”

Starkey also encouraged parents to be present in their children’s lives. She acknowledged that that can be more difficult for parents of teenagers, but she said it is important to take notice of any changes in their behavior. Nichols said that significant physical and emotional changes can be warning signs as well as changes in routine, friendships, and other characteristics.

“I think it’s more important than ever with all the social media and stuff out there that we have conversations with our kids,” Starkey said. “Even as a mom of two boys who are now in college, every single day I check with both of my kids. You know, ‘Good morning,’ ‘How are you doing?’ ‘I hope you have a good day,’ those kids of things. I think it’s important that we have actual conversations with our kids.”

Nichols added that there are many different ways to ask for help.

“Help is available,” she said. “A lot of times it’s easier than you think. There is the suicide hotline that has a texting line. There are crisis lines that text and message as opposed to having to call someone. The adolescent population, that’s how they communicate. They text; they don’t talk on the phone or go sit in front of people and talk to a therapist. They want that online connection, that electronic connection that they’re comfortable with. Knowing that those resources are available is a great asset to students and parents.”

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