The numbers stop you in your tracks. If not, they should. Nearly 1 in 5 Valley teens have contemplated suicide and 40 percent struggle with depression and sadness on a daily basis according to a report from Susquehanna Valley United Way and United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties.
That means, at high schools the size of Danville or Lewisburg or Selinsgrove or Shikellamy, more than 100 students at each school — as many as 150 — have thought about suicide.
Those are remarkable numbers. And frightening.
“More and more young people are, quite simply, lost, choosing not to go to post-secondary programs but also to not participate in the workforce,” the report said, adding that the rate of disconnected youth in Northumberland County is 21 percent or nearly double the national average. “This means far too few skilled workers to replace our retiring Baby Boomers, resulting in our region being on the brink of a workforce crisis.”
In recent years, NBA all-star Kevin Love has publicly discussed his mental issues, issues that forced him to miss games and led to a panic attack in the middle of a game.
In a piece he wrote in 2018 for The Players’ Tribune, Love wrote: “Everyone is going through something we can’t see.”
According to a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017, more than 47,000 individuals died by suicide nationwide, the most recent year for which data was available. In Pennsylvania alone, 2,023 individuals died by suicide that year — the first time in at least the last quarter-century that there were more than 2,000 suicides in Pennsylvania in a single year, according to suicide data compiled by researchers at the University of Indiana.
There are countless reasons for this. As a community, we won’t be able to solve all of them. But we can shine a spotlight on them. We must.
It must be done by more than talking. Dialogue is a good start, but real action is required. More mental health professionals are needed in our region, distributed in our hospitals and in our schools. Getting smart people in rooms with other smart people will help.
Among the recommendations outlined in the United Way’s report are the establishment of regular trauma and mental health summits; increased access to medical professionals through telemedicine; adoption of a consistent crisis protocol for school resource officers, counselors and social workers. A report issued last week by the state government recommends ensuring that insurance companies abide by the law requiring that mental health services are provided at the same level as physical health problems.
This effort won’t be easy. It won’t be cheap. But it will be worth the price if one life can be saved.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.