Dr. Brian Ceccarelli said he started It’s Time 2! with the thought of creating “a better way of uniting our community.”
The Beavercreek man’s organization has become a vehicle reaching more than 25,000 young students in the Dayton region on how to cope with mental health issues.
That includes suicide, the second leading cause of death for children and adolescents, according to a September report by the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.
An effort to “mend some fences in the community turned into meeting people who then enlightened me to problems in schools that kids are having with bullying, teen suicide and mental health,” Ceccarelli said.
“So the whole trajectory of my project took a different direction,” said the 63-year-old, who retired in recent years from an orthopedic practice in Centerville and Dayton.
The statistics of most concern to the nonprofit organization are the rise of teen suicides since 2007.
Since it began in 2016, the group has given free presentations at more than 50 schools, mainly in Butler, Clark, Greene, Montgomery, Preble and Warren counties.
Students in Beavercreek, Bellbrook, Centerville, Dayton, Fairborn, Kettering, Miamisburg, Oakwood and Trotwood are among those It’s Time 2! has reached.
Centerville middle school guidance counselor Kevin Wisniewski said the presentations mix videos and real-life testimonials from young adults, messages that “strike a chord” with students and help them open up about issues.
“There are so many changes going on physically, mentally, emotionally in this age group,” the Tower Heights counselor said. “His presentation is taking what occurs kind of behind the scenes and says we need to have a voice for this.
“It really hitting on who do you reach out to, who do you connect to,” Wisniewski added. “And I think for a lot of our students it’s the very first time (they talk about) these mental health issues that they may be experiencing.”
The biggest concerns, he said, are “about suicide and if someone is reaching that point of feeling that dark and starting to think about those things, of kind of ending the silence around that.
“They’re feeling very overwhelmed and very alone” and the presentations help “them understand that they’re not alone in it,” Wisniewski added. “There are many other people who walk through this and this is how they’ve come through on the other side. That’s one of the powerful messages of the personal stories.”
The suicide death rate for children 8 to 12 years old increased 166% from 2007-19, according to Kaiser Permanente. For teens, the rate nearly doubled, the report states.
Dayton Regional STEM School Superintendent Robin Fisher said her students in grades 6-12 “were buzzing about” the presentations.
Most impactful, she said, were presenters “telling their stories…where maybe they’ve been suicidal or had attempted suicide in the past. Our students were able to identify with that or relate to that because they were people closer to their own age.”
For students “not wrestling” with such issues, it provided ways to “support their friends” who may be and “gives them the hope of a brighter future,” Fisher said.
Ceccarelli said his organization has been talking with Dayton Children’s Hospital about working with it to “merge our services to reach as many kids in the community” to provide care.
“I think the thing that gives me the most satisfaction,” he said, “is when you have a kid come up to you at the end of the presentation and they say ‘you changed my life’ or ‘you gave me a different way at looking at things’.”
By the numbers
•1.24M: Medically attended U.S. youth suicide attempts in the past year.
•25,000-plus: Students who have heard It’s Time 2! Presentations.
•166%: Rise in suicide death rate for children 8 to 12 years old from 2007-19.
SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, It’s Time 2!
How to get help
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat online with a trained professional at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.