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Johnson County Mental Health Convening

Update: Story by Kansas City Star, August 6, 2018 > 'Enough is enough:' Johnson County superintendents unite to fight teen suicide


(JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS) August 1, 2018 – Six Johnson County school districts are joining forces to address the growing number of teen deaths by suicide. The convening comes after district superintendents shared similar heartbreaking tragedies. As a unified group of school leaders, the superintendents decided it was time to have real conversations about real change.

“These deaths weigh heavy on our hearts,” said Blue Valley Superintendent Todd White. “It is unacceptable for our
children to think that the very best way to improve their life is to end it.”

According to Johnson County Mental Health, teen suicides in the county nearly doubled in the first six months of 2018. Teen deaths by suicide are escalating nationally too. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14 and is the second-leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24.

The superintendents held a kick-off meeting in June and invited influential leaders representing mental health providers, parents, the faith community and local business community.

“As a community, we must all work together and address suicide head-on for the benefit of our children,” said Shawnee Mission Deputy Superintendent Kenny Southwick. “The mental health of our students is a top priority.”

Discussion focused on three key questions:

  • Why is there a rising number of teenagers experiencing mental health issues and choosing death by suicide?
  • How can school districts and community partners collaborate to multiply the impact of our work?
  • What strategies or action plans can we deploy to stop teen suicide and mitigate mental health concerns?

“We do not have all the answers, but through our collective effort and willingness to engage in conversations about suicide, we can provide a system of care and support for our children,” said Olathe Public Schools Superintendent John Allison. The group plans to convene monthly.

Image displaying logos from all six Johnson County, KS school districts.

Todd White, Blue Valley Schools Superintendent
Frank Harwood, USD 232 Superintendent
Pam Stranathan, Gardner Edgerton School District Superintendent
John Allison, Olathe Public Schools Superintendent
Mike Fulton, Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent
Wayne Burke, Spring Hill School District Superintendent

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