Johnson County has been shaken in recent weeks by the deaths of area teens who have taken their own lives.
In an effort to help families better understand the signs and symptoms of mental health problems — and substance use issues that can lead to or exacerbate mental health crises — two local agencies are teaming up to host a community forum this week.
The event, hosted by First Call, the area’s alcohol and drug prevention and recovery organization, and the Prairie Village Police Department will be held Wednesday, March 7 at the Prairie Village Municipal Building. The panel will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Margaux Guignon, Director of Prevention at First Call, said the goal of the discussion will be to raise awareness of substance use and mental health issues in the context of a recent increase in incidents with teens on both sides of the state line.
The discussion will cover:
- signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation
- early indicators of developing substance use or mental health problems
- how parents can talk with their kids if they suspect they may be struggling
“Parents have a hard time distinguishing between what is typical teen behavior and what is something that we need to address,” Guignon said. “A youth might be developing a crisis or mental health problem, but you don’t always know what that looks like.”
The two organizations began talking last year about hosting an event around this time because it is not uncommon for law enforcement to see an increase in mental health issues among teens in the spring.
“Kids have recently gotten back from winter break, so there are the stresses of getting back into school,” Guignon said. “And then you’ve got spring break coming up, along with prom and graduation not too far away – so it’s a time of year when you see a lot of parties.”
One of the main messages the group wants to stress is that substance use disorders and mental health issues can affect all families, regardless of background or situation.
“A lot of people think, that’s not going to be my kid,” Guignon said. “But it can happen to anyone. And parents need to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms.”