April 14, 2024 1:02 pm
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Georgia community unites to combat rising tide of youth suicide

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Shanteya Hudson, Public News Service

A coalition of organizations in Georgia is joining forces to combat the rising rate of suicide among children and teenagers.

According to national data, approximately 8% of children attempt suicide annually, with 17% reporting serious suicidal thoughts.

Jessica Andrews-Wilson, executive director of Gwinnett United in Drug Education, a group focused on helping improve the community through training and resources to help youths and prevent substance abuse, emphasized the distressing trend is also evident in their local area, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive mental health support.

“The data from the Georgia Student Health Survey that is conducted by the Georgia Department of Education annually is showing increased rates of young people who are unhappy, who feel sad, and who question their purpose in life,” Andrews-Wilson reported.

She pointed out students are still reporting having a tough time post-COVID. The survey showed challenges include demands at school and home, problem with family and friends, and performance at school. Andrews-Wilson noted to raise awareness about mental health, address community needs and provide necessary resources, GUIDE is working alongside a coalition to offer comprehensive training to the community.

Kamesha Walker, community health program manager for the Gwinnett Coalition, which is leading the collaborative effort, explained identifying warning signs in struggling children or teens is not always obvious.

Isolation, withdrawal or disinterest in previously enjoyed activities can be subtle but important clues. So as part of the Resilient Gwinnett initiative, she emphasized they are offering 10 vital trainings aimed at equipping more people with the skills needed to recognize signs and help kids develop coping skills for managing emotions and challenges.

“With Resilient Gwinnett, what we’re trying to do with some of our training is to teach the adults who deal with those children how to interact with them and then how to actually deal with them when they’re feeling alone, and then how to approach them and be more supportive,” Walker outlined. “Then actually teaching them also how to come out of that feeling of feeling alone.”

The range of training includes critical skills such as mental health first aid, question-persuade-refer suicide prevention, and sessions on mandated reporting and dealing with childhood trauma. Opportunities for training are accessible through the Gwinnett Coalition’s website or by reaching out to either the Coalition or GUIDE directly.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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