By Beth Clay, Executive Director

Our 12- to 18-year-olds in the Fox Valley are attempting suicide at twice the rate of youth in the rest of the state and nation. The NEW Mental Health Connection, in partnership with United Way Fox Cities, is working hard to understand what is driving this alarming trend. Even with all the good work happening in our community around mental health, the local rate of youth attempting suicide continues to rise. Thanks to being awarded a United Way Community Impact Grant of $90,000 over 2 years, our community is going to dive deeper into this issue to understand the “Why?” behind this disturbing data.

This generous funding will allow researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin to engage with us in a qualitative research method called Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR). This method of research puts those most affected—our local youth—together in partnership with academic researchers, to find answers to local community problems. These answers will guide all of our community partners to better understand what to do about this tragic issue, and will elevate the voice of our youth on a topic that is so critical to their well-being. As part of the study, a Social Media Environmental Scan will be conducted, looking at the role social media plays in adolescent despair, self-harming, suicide considering, planning, and attempting.

The study will take place in three phases:

  1. Recruiting youth advisory boards and designing the study
  2. Collecting and analyzing data
  3. Disseminating the findings

We look forward to sharing with the community what we are learning in each phase of the project.

The goal of this research project is to fill our data gap so we’ll have the understanding we need to drive the development of real, local, targeted prevention and intervention. The community, including LIFE Study partners, funders, youth-facing agencies, schools, public health, healthcare systems, mental health providers, and parents can then change our local youth suicide story, from one of disparity and despair, to one of life and hope. Thank you United Way Fox Cities for funding and supporting this critical local research project!

Listen to a recent WHBY interview with Beth Clay about this project.