Mental health and kids: How a hospital’s new initiative hopes to help children

More children than ever are struggling with their emotions.

New research finds that in 2018 more than 7 percent of high school kids attempted to end their own life.

>> Kids and mental health problems: What’s being done to help?

Young people in the Miami Valley and the country are dying. Some are taking their own lives. Some are taking risks.

Robin Jones lost her son Zachary in 2017 just a few days after his 16th birthday.

The Centerville mother was there when a family member found Zach’s body in an attic stairway.

“Two steps up there he was hanging. Every night I see that when I go to bed,” said Jones.

Jones said her son wasn’t sad.

“There is not an ounce of me that even thinks he did this intentionally,” she said.

Jones thinks Zach’s death was accidental and the result of risky behavior.

“It’s rampant with Tide Pod challenges, cinnamon challenges and everything,” she said. “These kids are not understanding the consequences of what their behavior is because they’re kids.”

According to Gregory Ramey, the executive director of the Center of Pediatric Mental Health Resources at Dayton Children’s Hospital, out of nearly 60,000 kids in Montgomery, Miami, Greene and Clark counties, 4,400 attempted to end their lives.

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“Something really strange is going on with our children in what we can call an astronomical rise in anxiety, depression or mood disorders.” said Ramey.

He says technology — such as cellphones and social media, like Facebook and Twitter — are the top things affecting a child’s mental health.

“The more time on social media the higher amount of anxiety and depression,” said Ramey. “The reason why? They are not developing the interpersonal relationship skills that are so critical.”

He also blames so-called helicopter parents.

“The concern is we’ve perhaps raised a generation of kids that are overprotected and not exposed to real life situations,” he said.


Dayton Children’s Hospital considers the growing suicide rate among children a crisis.

Last year it opened the Behavioral Crisis Center.

“The average of age of kids we are typically seeing is 13 to 15 years old,” said Mindy Schultz, manager of Behavioral Crisis Services. “But more and more we are noticing that there is an increase in kids younger than 10.”

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Officials with Dayton Children’s Hospital say parents need to talk with their children and look for signs they may need help. They say children who are at risk often do the following:

  • Do not express happiness or joy
  • Withdraw from interacting with parents and friends 
  • Admit they're unhappy 
  • Sleep too little or too much

Dayton Children’s Hospital has implemented a new policy. Children ages 10 and under, who are treated in the emergency or surgery departments, are asked if they have wanted to harm themselves or others.

Ramey says parents need to talk with their kids about their feelings. However, he advises not putting them on the spot and asking if they’ve ever thought about suicide.

Instead, Ramey says to ask them, “If any of their friends or kids at school are talking about this.”

Robin Jones is talking about her son’s death to help other teenagers.

“I’m open with my story. It’s obviously very emotional but if I can just save one kids. That’s all that matters.”

>> Cyberstalking: A crime on the rise

Robin says time hasn’t healed her heart. But it helps.

If you know someone threatening to harm themselves or others health officials urge you to call 911.

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