School, county work on suicide prevention

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OAKWOOD — Leaders in Vermilion County are trying to get past a common stigma and hopefully saves lives. They’re talking about suicide and overdose and what they can do to help those who are dealing with it.

Oakwood High School is working on the prevention side of things after losing multiple former students. Twenty students are certified to assist and counsel students with mental health issues. People in the county want to see the resources spread through more than just Oakwood, though.

“Over the last four years we’ve lost 10 young Oakwood high school graduate males to suicide and overdose.”

That’s just one of the many reasons Vermilion County officials need assistance. Lori Deyoung, a counselor in Danville, is ready to tackle the issue.

“It’s something that’s very, very important to me that I needed to get the community on board recognizing the need for education and awareness.”

Deyoung is working with the coroner’s office and others to get things started because she says the need is definitely there.

“They do a wonderful job, but are often without the resources to really meet that emotional need of those families that are in a crisis at that point.”

Oakwood is just one of the communities that has dealt with the tragedy and some students say it’s important the topic is talked about.

“Our community has been impacted by suicide and things like that and so we all need to learn how to embrace things like that and prevent it from happening.”

Katelyn Blankenship was one of the many high school students that went through mental health training and learned how to be more than just a friend to those in need.

“Nobody’s going to be afraid to go up and say something to somebody that has these problems. Instead of before we were scared of it and we just didn’t want to talk about and now we’re open.”

She says it hits close to home because she’s seen what it can do.

“One of my closest friends had a relative who committed suicide, so I see the effects every day of it and trying to get over it and I just want to prevent people from going through that.”

Lane Warren is another who took the time to learn more about the issue. He says although it hasn’t effected him personally, he knows the help needs to be available.

“Just somebody to talk to, somebody they know cares and doesn’t want them to be gone.”

This is in the beginning stages, and Deyoung is working to get more people on board. She hopes to have mental health professionals on call to help police and firefighters on the scene throughout the county. She says she’s hopeful it will be a success and fill the void they’re seeing.

Vermilion County is looking to Champaign County for some ideas. Champaign County has an emergency services support team. It’s managed through the Champaign fire department. They are volunteers who respond to the scene of tragedies and provide referrals of services that can help.

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