Madison County residents are welcome to attend an evening of education on Tuesday, Oct. 24, and training on how to look for signs of mental health concerns in children and teenagers. The event, being put on by Madison County school districts with help from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, hopes to equip parents and caregivers with tools to handle signs of depression and suicide.

“This is done for parents but also for anyone in the county, even if you don’t have kids in the schools,” said JoLynn Wheatley, District Social Worker with Jonathan Alder Schools. “We really want to open this up to the wider community.”

The event is part of the Signs of Suicide Prevention Program (SOS), a nationally recognized prevention program offered by The Center for Suicide Prevention and Research (CSPR) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The program works to encourage students to reach out for help, recognize warning signs of depression and decrease the amount of suicide attempts in students.

“Raising awareness is key to prevention,” Wheatley said. According to the SOS program, “suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-19 in the United States.” The program and event were both designed to not only educate the parents and guardians but also to inform students on how to help each other.

SOS was first brought to Jonathan Alder three years ago after there were two student suicides in the district. Wheatley said implementing the program at Alder was a great way to get useful information out into the community.

“It really works to raise awareness for this issue,” she said. “We’ve had one training session for staff members already and plan for more in the coming weeks.” London City Schools have also implemented SOS and Wheatley said they are working to get all four Madison County districts to participate.

Suicide Prevention Specialists from Nationwide Children’s Behavioral Health department will be present Tuesday evening at the talk. They will discuss updated information and statistics on depression in teenagers.

“Really, this is an education but also an open discussion,” Wheatley said. Her hope is continue this conversation and make sure communities are aware of what is going on with their kids.

The event is free to the public and will be held at Canaan Middle School in the Jonathan Alder District from 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24. Canaan is located at 7055 U.S. Route 42 S. in Plain City.

By Michael Williamson

Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.