The following story published by the Columbus Dispatch on March 2, 2020
by Megan Henry
When it comes to rural parts of Ohio, stigma and access to behavioral health services are two barriers parents are forced to navigate when trying to help their child. There is only one child psychiatrist in southeast Ohio, in Athens County, and two in south central Ohio, in Lawrence County, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Lexie Reed has to travel more than 130 miles one-way just to see her psychiatrist in Cincinnati.
The 17-year-old teenager from Ironton, on the Ohio River in southern Ohio, suffers from anxiety and depression and has high-functioning autism.
When Lexie was suicidal in 2017, her mom, Karen Reed, tried to find a counselor for her nearby in the Ohio-Kentucky-West Virginia area, to no avail. The family was faced with a choice: Travel about 117 miles to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus or about 135 miles to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“During a crisis time, there was nowhere for us to go,” Karen Reed said.
There was a 56% increase in suicides among young people ages 10 to 24 between 2007 and 2018, according to the Ohio Department of Health. A young person dies by suicide every 33 hours in Ohio, and suicide is the leading cause of death among 10- to 14-year-olds, according to the state health department.
When it comes to rural parts of the state, stigma and access to behavioral health services are two barriers parents are forced to navigate when trying to help their child, especially in Appalachian Ohio.
“The more you get out into those rural areas, the less opportunity you have for behavioral health care,” said Tony Coder, executive director of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation. “There aren’t a number of providers in rural areas, and you combine that with the stigma and no one talking about it, it really is a perfect little storm that we’ve got going there.”
Rural parts of Ohio, especially southern, southeast and pockets of northwest Ohio, had the highest rates of suicide from 2014 through 2018, according to the state health department. For example, for every 100,000 residents in Appalachia’s Meigs County, nearly 24 died by suicide.
Fulton County in northwestern Ohio was a county with high rates of suicide, the state health department report stated. But its location just west of Toledo in Lucas County makes it a little easier to find mental health help, Coder said.
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