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The Community Foundation of Lorain County is dedicated to enriching the lives of those living and working in Lorain County, Ohio.

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2018 Lorain County Youth Summit: Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

Over 150 students, teachers, and parents from school districts across Lorain County gathered to talk about mental health, suicide prevention, and what they can do to make a difference.

Grace Broome, president of the Youth Fund Advisory Board and a junior at Wellington High School, kicked off the 2018 Lorain County Youth Summit by sharing a glimpse of how it feels to juggle the pressures, stress, and anxiety of being a teenager right now.

“We worry about our friends, we worry about our family, and we worry about ourselves.  We worry about fitting in, we worry about not fitting in…we worry about whether we are worrying too much, we worry that we aren’t worrying enough.” 

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The Youth Summit, held at the Lodge of New Russia Township in Oberlin, was designed to help students help each other, to be each other’s own support group, to be an unfailing presence in an uncertain world. This is the second year for the Youth Summit, planned by the Youth Fund Advisory Board, a youth-led Affiliate Fund of Community Foundation of Lorain County.

Liz Wolanski, Child and Adolescent Services director for the Lorain County Board of Mental Health, presented a new training program focused on the primary prevention of mental health issues among youth and young adults. The training, called Be Present Ohio, was developed by Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services. As Liz Wolanski pointed out to the group,

“You don’t need me to tell you that adolescence is a challenging time. I am not the expert in the room, the youth in the room are the experts.”

Ms. Wolanski shared several videos from the Be Present Ohio campaign including those talking about Respondability, Adapt, Thrive, and Care. Another video addressed recognizing the symptoms of sadness versus depression.

Most importantly the Summit focused on youth in the room leading the discussion.

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Youth separated into five discussion groups, each led by members of the Youth Fund Board, to talk about what it means to be a support person for someone else, and where they have gotten support they needed during their own challenging times.

“Our goal for this today was to be able to help all of you or the people you know by providing the necessary resources in order to make change on mental health,” said Katie McNulty, vice president of the Youth Fund and a sophomore at Avon Lake High School.

Last fall, the Youth Fund began planning what the 2018 Summit might look like, beginning with a needs assessment of issues and challenges they observed happening in their schools.  It was imperative that the training be youth-driven, provide for peer to peer conversations, and guidance on what to do when inevitably they see a student in psychological distress.

The goal of the Youth Summit was for participants to leave with the skills and confidence to have a compassionate conversation and know how to connect friends and classmates with resources that will help.

“When we started planning this, we asked: what are the real issues and are we doing enough? The reality is many of us are not getting the help we need. The good news is that we, even as teenagers, have the ability to create change in our communities,” said Grace Broome.

A concurrent training was provided by Ms. Wolanski for the roughly 40 parents, teachers, and adults present at the Summit who work with youth. Training focused on challenges, risk factors, and how to help youth cope with stress, trauma, and difficult situations.

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2017/2018 Youth Fund Advisory Board ready to hand out grab bags at the end of the Youth Summit. 

Left to right: Makayla Riggins, Oberlin High School; Katie McNulty, Avon Lake High School; Michael Hageman,  St. Edward High School; Taylor Sackett, Keystone High School; Grace Broome, Wellington High School; Natalie Hall, Amherst High School; Melanie Carr, Avon Lake High School; Kyler Yusko, Keystone High School; Caitlyn Downing, Avon High School. Not pictured: Ariana Leandry, Lorain High School; Jamisen Love, Elyria High School.


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