Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Juveniles and Mental Health Topic of UC Forum

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Juveniles and Mental Health Topic of UC Forum

Article excerpt

State Superintendent Michael Martirano knows how important it is to pay attention to issues surrounding juveniles and mental health. "If I said to you, "Look at me now,' you have an impression of me you've conjured up; an opinion of me, in terms of I'm a state superintendent, Martirano said to those gathered Monday evening for the "Mental Health Matters panel at the University of Charleston.

"If I said to you, When I was 10, my mother died of cancer and my father remarried another woman, obviously, to my stepmother, who abused me emotionally and physically and I was pulled out and placed in foster care, on free and reduced meals and had a variety of other social issues,' would you believe me? Martirano said. "That's me. I lived this as a child first-hand.

A number of youth in West Virginia are struggling with mental health-related issues, those who attended the panel discussion on Monday were told.

"When we don't address this at the urgency, as Dr. Martin Luther King talked about, The fierce urgency of now,' the superintendent said. He added, "We have young people suffering in our schools every day. It's not their fault. It's not their fault.

Over the past 16 years, in almost every state except West Virginia, youth confinement has declined, according to information from Mental Health Matters, West Virginia. Instead, during that time, the confinement rate in West Virginia has increased by nearly 50 percent.

Mental Health Matters is a campaign to keep juveniles mentally and emotionally healthy and in their own communities, according to the group's Facebook page.

Panelists Monday included professionals involved with juvenile justice, mental health and public education. Several on the panel called on state lawmakers to focus on finding community-based mental health care solutions for youth. They also warned about what might happen if the problem isn't addressed.

"This is one area I can truly say we are not doing the job we need to do, Martirano said.

Carol Smith, a counseling professor at Marshall University, said adult corrections and law enforcement will see the largest increases without more options for youth. …

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