State looks to address youth suicide with new mental health focus
Kristina Mossgraber was a star athlete in middle school and was voted most popular by fellow classmates at Nathaniel Rochester Community School Number 3.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Mossgrabber says she was struggling.
“I had a very long period of time of not knowing that I had an underlying mental illness, and you know keeping it hidden and struggling in silence," she told 13WHAM News.
Mossgrabber says her silence lasted for years, until she tried to take her own life in 2014.
“My long journey culminated in a very serious suicide attempt where I almost lost my life.”
She says her survival became her wake up call. “It was more than myself - you know, staying well and everything," she said. "It was, what can I do to turn this into something positive for the community, especially kids?”
Mossgraber is now a community educator and special event coordinator for National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) Rochester.
She runs a program geared for middle and high school students called Ending the Silence, working with a long list of school districts in the Greater Rochester Area.
Mossgraber said mental health and suicide wasn’t talked about when she was growing up, and that could have made a difference for her.
She’s thrilled New York Schools will be mandated to teach mental health starting in 2018. Teaching about alcohol, drugs, tobacco and cancer prevention and detection are also part of the mandate.
Statistics show suicide is the number cause of death for middle school students.
Tony Hess of Hillside Family of Agencies supports teaching mental health in schools. “We want everyone involved. Suicide is everyone's business when we can all be aware and alert we can make a difference. We can end these deaths that are happening.”
Hess said it’s critical to educate everyone about the signs and symptoms of mental illness. The more people are educated, Hess said, the higher the chance of getting help and support to a person struggling with thoughts of suicide.
“"It tends to be a taboo subject, but I think the more attention you can bring the better,” said parent Jason Pries of Henrietta. “Especially today with social media and everything like that. I think there's probably more of a need for it."
If you or someone you know needs help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24/7 and their number is 1-800-273-8255.