Youth mental health summit brings educators and caregivers together in Logan

Posted on:

< < Back to

LOGAN, Ohio (WOUB/Report for America) — Roughly 200 mental health professionals, educators and school administrators gathered Thursday at Logan High School for a mental health summit on youth suicide prevention.

The event was a response to the growing demand on schools to provide mental health services for students, particularly in rural areas with few other options.

Last year, the Logan-Hocking local school district experienced two suicides. Logan-Hocking Superintendent Monte Bainter said the tragedies spurred the district to action.

Bainter met with parents and students over the summer to discuss what the district could do to provide better support.

He also began talking with the Appalachian Children Coalition, which organized the summit.

A large number of people sit around tables assembled in a school athletics facility. There is a projector screen in the background.
The summit took place in Logan High School’s Chieftain Center, which typically serves as an athletics facility. [Theo Peck-Suzuki | WOUB Public Media/Report for America]
“‘We’ve got your back’ is kind of our motto this year. We’ve got your back — and we do,” Bainter said.

The summit gave school officials from around the region the opportunity to connect with mental health professionals from organizations like Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

Nationwide’s Suicide Prevention Lead Coordinator Amberle Prater, a native of Appalachian Ohio, was one of the keynote speakers.

She spoke about the risk factors students in rural school districts face when it comes to suicide. These include ease of access to firearms, social pressures surrounding masculinity and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals and people of color.

Prater said the rate of suicide among rural youth in Ohio is 54% higher than urban youth.

A woman stands at a podium, smiling.
Keynote speaker Amberle Prater encouraged attendees to think about both the challenges and strengths within Appalachian Ohio communities. [Theo Peck-Suzuki | WOUB Public Media/Report for America]
Students already spend a significant amount of time in school, making them a focal point for efforts to address these growing mental health needs. This brings its own sets of challenges for school teachers and administrators.

Fort Frye Superintendent Stephanie Starcher spoke to this at the summit.

“Everything that always was on our plate before — you know, like math, science, social studies, computers — it didn’t go off the plate. Those are all still there,” Starcher said. “We just keep piling up, and piling up, and very little comes off of our plates.”

Starcher warned that many are experiencing “empathy fatigue” in the face of overwhelming need.

She said she hoped the summit would help bring to light solutions that could ease the burden on educators and caregivers.