The Mental Health Association of the North Shore (MHANS) will host its final Evanston panel presentation, “Let’s Talk About It!: Youth Depression and Suicide, A Community Discussion,” free and open to the public at 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 17, at Martin Luther King Lab School, 2424 Lake St., including breakout sessions. 

Previous panel discussions were held in September to educate the community and raise awareness about the issues of youth depression and suicide prevention.  “If we can save one life by lifting the fog and stigma around this issue, then our work has been worthwhile, said Elizabeth Brasher, MHANS President. 

Around 100 individuals have attended the first two panel discussions where experts in youth depression and suicide prevention answered questions from the audience about how parents and schools can recognize the warning signs that young people may be in danger.   

“We learned from our expert panelists that children do not always know how to express their feelings and how we as adults can help make them resilient when they are feeling scared, confused or sad,” she said.  Already this year, Illinois has had more suicides among pre-adolescents than in previous years, tragically, with one in Evanston.

Keynote speaker for the October 17 forum is Kesha S. Burch, LCPC, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor for psychological services with a private practice in Evanston and Mental Health Consultant for the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project.   

As the former Director of Counseling Services at Dominican University, Ms. Burch advanced campus awareness of the mental health and wellness needs of adolescents and young adults and managed various mental health crises for the campus.   

Attendees also will have a chance to ask questions of panelists and participate in breakout sessions.  “We’re bringing in the experts and the community resources so that together we can learn about this silent epidemic,” Ms. Brasher said.  “This forum provides the opportunity for us to learn how to spot depression in children and where to seek treatment.”   

Additional topics to be covered are bullying, communicating with children, exposing shame, and getting help close to home.  MHANS also has developed a new pamphlet for young children to identify what to do if they are having sad or depressed feelings, and how adults can help them.  “We must teach young children to tell us when they are feeling badly.  Our new brochure uses child-like drawings and words that young children can relate to,” Ms. Brasher said.  

For a copy of the free MHANS pamphlet for children, Sometimes I Don’t Feel So Good, please contact MHANS at 847/328-6198 or email info@mhans.org.  The pamphlet may also be downloaded from the MHANS web site, www.mhans.org.  The MHANS website also includes a special teen web page, “Real Life, Real Answers.” 

Brochures, books and other resources to learn about youth depression will be available at the forums, including the very popular new Parent’s Handbook on Childhood and Adolescent Depression, provided free of charge by Erika’s Lighthouse.  In addition, there will be informational materials from other forum partners covering positive programs for children to participate in year round. 

A coalition of Evanston school officials, educators, mental health care professionals, community organizations and parents have come together to address these issues, Ms. Brasher said, by co-sponsoring the forums with MHANS.  They include: Evanston-Skokie School District 65, Evanston Township High School District 202, Boocoo, City of Evanston Community Health Division, Erika’s Lighthouse, Family Focus, Family Institute at Northwestern University, Mental Health Board of Evanston, NAMI, Robinson Design, Y.O.U. Youth Organization Umbrella, YMCA and YWCA.