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Mental health services for children highlighted at park event

New Castle News - 5/14/2019

May 10-- May 10--In 2016, Eric Anderson's son took his own life.

Devastated by the experience, the Sandy Lake resident and his wife now dedicate their lives to helping other families to identify cues of depression, anxiety and t cope with a suicide.

"We're new at this," Anderson said at his table carrying the banner " Luke Slye Memorial Fund -- Fighting for Suicide Prevention and Raising Awareness for Mental Health."

"We're not professionals but we come to these events," he said. "Our goal is to remove the stigma attached to seeking assistance when dealing with mental illness, suicide and depression."

Anderson and his wife handed out literature and helped youngsters to create paper foxes at the fifth annual Children's Mental Health Awareness Day at Cascade Park.

"My son once had a fox," Anderson said quietly. "This sort of keeps him with us."

Scheduled for the picnic grove, the event relocated to the park dance pavilion when a sudden shower hit just before the 3 p.m. start time. There, various service providers offered literature, conversation and information for families.

There were also hot dogs, snow cones, music, a fire truck, face painting and pony rides.

Lawrence County Mental Health specialist Albert Antonelli said the event has grown since its first year when the public was invited to his office. About 50 attended, he said. "Last year we had 220 and there are more than that this year.

"We want to raise mental health awareness, bring mental health providers together and show what sort of help and services are available and how they can be accessed. There's a lot of good information here."

He said services are available to children from preschool through age 18.

Joe Venasco, director of Lawrence County MH-MR, noted that service providers are reaching into the community. School districts, he said, offer satellite out-patient mental health services.

"We can see youngsters who think that they need help in familiar settings where they feel comfortable." He added that placing outpost offices in schools removes the need of a student to find his way downtown for services or an evaluation.

The theme this year was "Stomp out Stigma," and members of the Mental Health Awareness Committee wore a boot print logo on the back of their shirts.

Several of the mental health service providers offered information on suicide. The Human Services Center offered literature from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that encourages friends and family to talk and listen to someone thinking about suicide, tell them you care and encourage them to seek treatment. Michele Kelly-Thompson, clinical director of HSC, said all areas seem to be seeing more suicides among young people and said 18 were recorded in Lawrence County in 2016, the most current year for which she had statistics.

The Lawrence County Suicide Prevention Coalition, she said, offers adult suicide loss and healing support groups that meet every month at the New Castle Public Library and an "Out of the Darkness Walk to Fight Suicide" to be held Sept. 14 at the Riverwalk in New Castle.

The Abundant Life Fellowship Church of New Waterford, Ohio, did the cooking. Shenango Area Fire District chief David Rishel manned the fire truck, giving children and adults tours of the vehicle and allowing them it sit in the cab.

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(c)2019 New Castle News (New Castle, Pa.)

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