By Beth Clay, executive director, N.E.W. Mental Health Connection, Inc.
One in eight of our high school students in the Fox Valley are attempting suicide. The NEW Mental Health Connection, in partnership with United Way Fox Cities, is working hard to understand what is driving this alarming trend. Even with all the good work happening in our community around mental health, the local rate of youth suicide attempting continues to rise.
Thanks to funding from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership – supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs within the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, the J.J. Keller Foundation, and other community partners – our community is going to dive deeper into this issue to understand the “why?” behind this disturbing data.
This generous funding allows researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin to engage with us in a qualitative research method called Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR).
This method of research puts those most affected – our local youth – together in partnership with academic researchers, to find answers to local community problems. These answers will guide all of our community partners to better understand what to do about this tragic issue, and will elevate the voice of our youth on a topic that is so critical to their well being.
As part of the study, a Social Media Environmental Scan will be conducted, looking at the role of social media in adolescent despair, self harming, suicide considering, planning and attempting.
Teen mental health and suicide are sensitive issues. The Medical College of Wisconsin Institutional Review Board (IRB) will work to ensure participating teens are safe throughout the process. A clinical provider will support participating teens when needed, and all participating teens will be provided with a list of resources for additional support.
The study will take place in three phases: (1) recruiting youth advisory boards (one each in Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago Counties) and designing the study (2) collecting and analyzing data (3) disseminating the findings. We look forward to sharing with the community what we are learning in each phase of the project.
The goal of this research project is to fill our data gap so we’ll have the understanding we need to drive the development of real, local, targeted prevention and intervention. The community, including LIFE Study partners, funders, youth-facing agencies, schools, public health, healthcare systems, mental health providers, and parents can then change our local youth suicide story, from one of disparity and despair to one of life and hope.
Thank you to the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation for funding and supporting this critical local research project!