Seminar Tackles Autism and Suicide in Youths




Two powerful subjects — autism and suicide —were addressed during an event at Geneva College, and planned by an educator and medical professional from Lawrence County.

The topic was “The Impact of Mental Health Issues in Schools.

Last year, discussions centered on ADHD and sobriety and it was well received, said Dr. Herbert W. Hunt, founder of HH Education Events who along with Dr. Mark Matta, CEO of Psych Med Associates in New Castle, decided to hold another one. Already, a third one is planned for 2018, turning it into a series.

“This has been a way of bringing together educators and medical professionals on an annual basis,” Hunt said. “It is a sharing of ideas and a way to support one another.”

He said the format included presentations by medical professionals and ended with a panel discussion.

The goal is to seek ways to help teachers, students and parents deal with difficult issues so that students can be successful and reach their full potential in life, Hunt said.

“Many educators leave with a greater sense that what they are doing in schools to handle these issues has been the correct path to follow. Others leave with new ideas from other educators or the medical professionals.”

More than 100 registered from schools in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

“Lawrence County was well represented,” Hunt said, adding that participants were administrators, counselors, nurses, teachers and directors of special education.

Matta, who did a Power Point presentation on suicide, addressed what schools should or should not do after a suicide, the most reliable ways of determining if a child is in a suicidal state, how to distinguish between true suicidal and non-suicidal behavior, the most effective treatments for suicidal adolescents and the causes of the increase in the number of teen suicides.

Matta said, “Tragically, teen suicide rates continue to escalate in the U.S. and our health care system is focused more on regulations and cost than on allowing providers to do what they are trained to do. Educators have been placed in the front lines by default, but they are not providers. They know these youth better than anyone and can help in the battle to prevent unnecessary and untimely deaths.”

Everyone must play a role in prevention, he continued.

“Something has to be a leading cause of death in every age group; God forbid, though it should be suicide in our youth”.

Also at the seminar, Michael Krisuk from Ameriprise presented information on the Lawrence County Autism Warriors, which is a support group for students, parents, and teachers affected by autism within the county. It provides informational speakers and events as well as opportunities for sensory-friendly activities for students such as movies, trunk-or-treat and picnics.

Ameriprise, along with Milton Hershey School, Matta and Geneva College helped financially support the event.

Krisuk talked about what teacher and parent resources are available, the side effects of some of the psychotropic medications given to children, how schools can best communicate with mental health providers and the most effective ways of engaging students with autism.

Krisuk and his wife, Carla, who is a teacher in the Mohawk Area School District, are advocates for autism.

Lawrence County Autism Warriors is open to anyone in the county and new participants are always welcome.

This article posted with permission from the New Castle News

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