MEDFORD, Ore. — Oregon ranks as the worst state in the country for the prevalence of mental illness.
It’s why Oregon lawmakers are proposing a bill that would require students in grades 6 to 12 to take a mental health wellness check once every school year.
“We have seen in increase over the past 2 to 3 years of younger and younger students wanting to die…,” said Principal Sallie Johnson, Washington Elementary.
Depression and anxiety, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are some of the many disorders increasingly prevalent among K-12 students nationwide.
“We are seeing a lot of students coming to school unable just to cope with the daily… daily routine,” said Principal Johnson.
In the Medford School District, Washington Elementary has the highest number of student referrals to mental health services.
She says they’ve already had 5 to 6 students say they want to harm themselves this year; The youngest child is just 8-years-old.
And she says it’s been increasing every year.
“We have so many kids who are traumatized,” she said. “They have really difficult lives… they don’t necessarily have the coping strategies understanding how do I deal with this sadness I’m feeling? How do I deal with this depression?”
The latest report from the National Institute of Mental Health says 20 percent of youth nationwide are suffering from a mental disorder making it difficult for them to function.
And that isn’t surprising to many who work with kids on a daily basis.
“We have had situations come up where CASA’s say their child has voiced to them that they are feeling suicidal…,” said Dan Mata, the Lead Case Supervisor for CASA Jackson County.
He says volunteers at the organization supporting abused and neglected children now need to be trained to watch out for warning signs.
“They have direct contact with the children,” he said. “…where the child would speak with them and open up with them.”
With 2 full-time counselors at Washington Elementary to help, Principal Johnson says they’ve been proactive in dealing with the issue on campus.
However, the work needs to continue at home.
“It’s imperative that all adults take this seriously and not just brush it off like ‘oh, my kids just having a bad day,'” she said.
For signs to watch out for if you think a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, click here.
And if you need help, you can text 7-4-1… 7-4-1 anytime.
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