EDITORIAL: Mental health support is needed in schools

Mar. 28—A recent report by Josh Flynn of the Logansport Pharos-Tribune presented staggering numbers regarding Hoosier youth and their battles with mental health issues.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reported suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people 15-24 years old.

In addition, Indiana's suicide rate has been higher than the national average since 1999, according to the Indiana Center for Prevention of Youth Abuse and Suicide.

The suicide rate for those aged 10-24 jumped 60% from 2008 to 2018 in the state.

Indiana Capital Chronicle's Whitney Downard reported similar numbers in February. Citing the 2024 Indiana Youth Institute's KIDS COUNT Data Book, more than a third of the state's high school youth stated they felt sad or hopeless every day for about two weeks in 2022.

These reports highlight the widespread need for mental health services to help youth deal with ongoing issues. It's important for students in schools throughout the state to have access to mental health services during difficult times.

4C Health serves the entire state with a 24-hour mental health crisis help center and text message options and has locations to help residents in Miami, Pulaski, Howard, Tipton, Carroll, Fulton and Cass counties.

4C recently announced an agreement with Taylor Community Schools in Howard County to provide a mental health skills clinician to the school district. The clinician will work with students on behavioral, coping and regulatory skills.

Superintendent Steve Dishon said at a recent Taylor School Board meeting that the service is based on need, so if more students need assistance, 4C will supply more staff. An added bonus to the agreement: It comes free for Taylor, except for a small fee the district will pay so non-Medicaid students can receive services.

Given the numerous issues facing Hoosier youth — among them family life, school work and after-school activities and responsibilities — this is a deal more school districts need to emulate.

Until then, one initiative is in place to offer assistance to Hoosier youth — and educators. Project AWARE Indiana works to provide mental health awareness tools and support to school districts. The project, backed by the Indiana Department of Education and Division of Mental Health and Addiction, began in 2018.

According to the initiative's website, Project AWARE Indiana began by serving Avon Community School Corp., Perry Central Community Schools and Vigo County School Corp. It has now expanded to 19 school districts, spanning the state from South Bend Community School Corp. in the north to Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. in the south.

We applaud 4C and initiatives such as Project AWARE Indiana for focusing on the concern and care for Hoosier students. The programs put forth by these organizations highlight the importance of mental health assistance and support needed in our schools.