MILWAUKEE — As the pandemic tightened its grip on our country last year, students all over the country were faced with the challenge of adapting to a virtual learning model, often kept in isolation away from their typical resources and social settings. Milwaukee Public School students saw this first hand.
"It’s certainly been hard on our students and our families," said Melannie Litscher, a psychologist at MPS.
Listcher's job is to coordinate all of the mental health professionals and resources within the district. She says for every 200 MPS students, there is one mental health professional, a ratio higher than the state average.
"All of our MPS schools have a school psychologist, a school social worker, a school counselor assigned to those schools who are trained to support students with mental health needs," said Listcher.
The professionals have seen troubling statistics when it comes to suicide rates.
"We are concerned about suicide rates for our Black youth. We know that from ages 5-12, Black youth are twice as likely to die by suicide than their white peers. That changes after age 12, and white peers are then more likely to die by suicide compared to Black youth," said Listcher.
Listcher believes the key is education.
"We do comprehensive learning for all of our students. All of our staff have been trained to recognize warning signs on suicide concerns, with mental health on our young students," said Listcher.
However, she also believes families and parents play a key role in prevention. Here are her recommendations:
1. Ask the student if they have had thoughts of suicide.
2. Take the time to listen to their feelings and understand what they might be going through.
3. Seek out a professional, mentor, or faith leader who they can talk with aside from you.
"I know that can feel really scary and overwhelming, but that is truly the secret to preventing suicide," said Listcher.
If you are looking for resources, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. You can also view the resources below: