Cincinnati Children’s, Kohl’s Team Up to Prevent Teen Suicide

The Surviving the Teens program provides hope to teens experiencing emotional turbulence

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cincinnati Children’s and Kohl’s are joining forces to address the growing mental health needs of teens in our community.

With a new $420,000 grant from Kohl’s, Cincinnati Children’s will be expanding its Surviving the Teens (STT) Program to schools throughout the region over the next two years. The program helps teens, parents and teachers to recognize the warning signs and behaviors that may signal depression and suicide risk in teens—and know how to help.

“Surviving the Teens enhances the ability of young people to raise concerns about themselves or one of their friends, which can lead to saving a life,” says Michael Sorter, MD, who directs the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s.

“We’re incredibly grateful for this commitment from Kohl’s, which will allow us to help thousands more teens every year,” says Sorter.

Surviving the Teens was launched in 2001 by Cathy Strunk, a nurse at Cincinnati Children’s. As the program’s director, she has seen STT spread to more than 24 local schools, touching the lives of some 70,000 students.

With help from Kohl’s, the program will expand into 12 more schools this year and another 12 the following year.

“So many students tell us after the course, ‘I no longer feel so alone,’” says Strunk. “We’re giving teens the ability to recognize warning signs in themselves and others.”

Taught over five days within the schools by a licensed mental health specialist (social worker, clinical counselor or registered nurse), STT is a free program that includes student trainings, parent education programs and teacher support.

STT primarily provides training to middle and high school students on positive coping techniques, how to recognize signs of depression and suicidal behaviors in themselves and their peers, and how to respond appropriately and where to go for help. Of the 4,600 student participants in 24 schools last year, 65 were referred to their counselors for considering a suicide attempt.

“Surviving the Teens has been a very valuable and impactful part of our instruction to our students,” says Douglas Brown, a health educator at Talawanda High School in Oxford. “The program helps them to resolve conflicts, deal with loss and grief, deal with stressors in their lives, and of most importance, how to get help with depression and prevent suicide."

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, youth suicide is the second leading cause of death in children ages 10-24. Cincinnati is not immune from these statistics or the detrimental impact of child suicide on the community.

Sorter says that child and adolescent mental health is a growing concern throughout the Greater Cincinnati region. Annually, more than 7,000 children and adolescents come to the emergency department at Cincinnati Children’s for thoughts of suicide or mental health evaluation.

From 2011 to 2015, the medical center saw a 60 percent rise in the number of children coming to the emergency department for psychiatry evaluation and a 70 percent rise in inpatient admissions.

“I’ve seen the effects of depression on teens. There’s no question that our community needs this program,” says Sorter. “With help from Kohl’s, we’re going to ensure that more students have access to information and training that can save lives.”

This is not the first gift from Kohl’s to Cincinnati Children’s. Since 2001, the retailer has given more than $2.8 million to the medical center, supporting programs that help kids avoid injuries and others that help children and families cope with the stresses of a visit to the hospital.

With its gift to STT, Kohl’s is supporting a program that has proven it can help meet the mental health needs of local students.

"Over the past 10 years, I have seen firsthand how this program has provided education to our students,” says Rick Rockwell, the coach of the varsity men’s basketball team at Madeira High School. “Several times I have received phone calls, emails or spoken in person to former students that have told me that this program allowed them to get help for themselves or help for others.”

Contact Information

Shannon Kettler

Natalie Gerano
513 636-9241