By Beth Taylor
On March 2, Fishers High School hosted Stand Up for Mental Health with Hope, Help and Community. The program, sponsored by Parents in Partnership and the Peyton Riekhof Foundation for Youth Hope, featured comedian and mental health activist Kevin Breel and a community panel of mental health experts and two local students.
After Mike Riekhof opened the presentation, City of Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness addressed the audience. Fadness announced community-wide mental health initiatives at his State of the City address.
“Our police department was called to a home or business to help an individual needing mental health assistance 157 times last year,” said Fadness. We can be a great city that helps wipe away the stigma of mental health.”
Guest speaker Kevin Breel, a speaker and comedian who has struggled with depression, returned for a second time. He spoke to 1500 high school juniors during the school day, before participating in the panel. “It weighs on me just how many kids came up to me to say that they struggle with it (depression),” said Breel. “The fact that you are trying to change the conversation as a community is very special.”
In addition to Breel, the panel experts included Sheila Irick, MD, a psychiatrist at IU Health, Dawn Crossman a family therapist from Center for Hope, Chris Graves, guidance counselor and suicide prevention coordinator for the HSE school district, Lou Ann Lamaire-Pyle, from Aspire crisis center, HSE Resource Officer Alica Ahnert.
Ryan Altward of Young Life facilitated a Q & A session between panel members and the audience. Altward encouraged the audience to wade into the uncomfortable and share what they’ve experienced.
Irick said that parents often ask her to explain differences between typical teen behavior and signs of depression.
Signs and symptoms
- Talking about suicide is not a topic kids talk about
- Low interest in activities and friendships. Staying in their room instead of engaging.
- Concentration is poor.
- Energy levels are drained. Teens are sleeping too much.
- Change in peer group. Teens are friends with a new group.
Dawn Crossman from Center for Hope discussed the relationship between teens who self-harm and suicide. “Those who hurt themselves are at a higher risk for suicide,” said Crossman. She advised that concerned parents must be direct with their teens to help prevent suicide. “What parents want to ask is ‘Are you thinking about taking your own life?’ because students with depression and anxiety are more likely to get into recovery if they are confronted.”