As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, the Ohio Department of Health is highlighting its efforts in combating the growing crisis in the country.

The conference, which was held virtually at 11 a.m., was hosted by Bruce Vanderhoff, the director of the Ohio Department of Health. It included LeeAnne Cornyn, the director of Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Aimee Shadwick, the director of Recovery Ohio.

Ariana Hoet the executive director for The Kids Mental Health Foundation was also part of the presentation.

"Mental health is health," Vanderhoff said. "...Rates of depression among among both youth and adults have increased in recent years."

In 2020, about 22% of Ohioans 18 or older said they have been diagnosed with depression, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This number increases the younger the person. More than 42% of highschoolers reported feeling sad or hopeless everyday for two weeks the year before, according to ODH data collected in 2021.

Middle schoolers rate more than 37%, according to the ODH data.

These statistics have been rising in the last decade, even before the pandemic in 2020.

"Statistics tend to lag a few years," Vanderhoff added. "Data shows that these rates have been rising over the past we can't blame it all on that extraordinary event."

Also seen a higher number of suicides in Ohio since 2017, with an all time high in 2018. Vanderhoff says the trend line has not shown a steady decline that they'd like to see.

Since the Summer is about to begin, the loss of a school structure could impact a child's mental health even more.

Hoet recommends that parents think about how to structure in their kid's summer through behavioral activation. This means thinking about keeping their kids engaged through doing fun things, keeping them connected to others and rewarded.

This is especially important for their sleep, Hoet adds.

Additional resources to help those in need include 988, which was launched as a free confidential service for Ohioans in a mental health crisis. This includes those experiencing suicidal thoughts or feeling lost.

In 2023, one of the service's 19 call centers took more than 163,000 calls, online chats and texts, according to Cornyn.

This month, the ODH launched its 988 awareness campaign to increase the number of Ohioans that know about the service. Right now, around 1/3 of Ohioans know of it.

Additionally, the state launched its "Beat the Stigma" campaign which, Cornyn says, has been seen by 90% of Ohioans.

Mental health is intertwined to substance use disorders and the number of unintentional overdoses went from 2,110 in 2013 to 5,174 in 2021.

This number dropped in 2022 to 4,915 and early data shows that number may have dropped to 4,500 in 2023, according to Vanderhoff.

These numbers are linked to mental illness because substance could be the cause of it or a symptom of mental health issues, Shadwick said.

"When we're talking about thinking about mental illness, it's really really important to be thinking about substance use and how those two sometimes are integrated," Shadwick said. "Certainly there are individuals who only have a mental illness or only have a substance use disorder. It's important to make sure we're providing that integrated care."

Shadwick adds that the goal of the DeWine administration is to make Ohio a recovery-friendly state, which means offering services on drug treatment and reduction and supporting people in mental and drug recovery.

They also want to continue their focus on mental health awareness to family and community members impacted by those with these issues. Next month, there will be an enCompass training seminar that will help them navigate the disease of addiction. This will be free on June 24.

For more information on that seminar, click here.