Eaton Rapids Community Works to Bring Awareness to and Prevent Youth Depression and Suicide

Local Eaton Rapids organizations, businesses, and citizens are working to bring awareness to youth depression and suicide in response to growing concerns about mental health in middle- and high-schoolers. Concern has been raised as a result of increased media coverage of suicides, the growing use of suicide as a theme in popular culture (e.g., in the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" and Logic's song "1-800-273-8255"), and local data on youth mental health.

Information on local students' mental health comes mainly from the Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth (MiPHY) survey. The MiPHY asks students in grades 7, 9, and 11 about their health-risk behaviors, which include substance use, violence, nutrition, and emotional health, among others. In the 2015-16 Eaton Rapids MiPHY survey,

  • About 1 in 3 students reported having symptoms of depression in the past year. "Depression" was defined as feeling "so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities."
  • About 1 in 4 9th graders reported seriously considering suicide in the last year; 1 in 5 made a suicide plan.
  • Seven to ten percent of students said that they have attempted suicide.

The number of students reporting these symptoms and behaviors seem to peak in 9th grade, which is similar to data for Eaton County as a whole.

Unfortunately, some of these issues seem to be getting worse. Since 2012, the percentage of 7th and 9th grade Eaton Rapids students who had symptoms of depression has increased each year. Since 2010, the rate of 9th and 11th grade students who have seriously considered attempting suicide has also increased each year. Despite this, actual suicide attempts in these groups have not increased--they have remained fairly steady since 2010. Additional prevention and education efforts are still needed, however, because no student should reach the point of attempting suicide.

There are several local efforts underway to help raise awareness about and promote youth mental health:

  • The Eaton Rapids Health Alliance (ERHA), a local coalition of healthcare professionals, public health, mental health providers, schools, business owners, and local citizens, has been working to educate the community on these issues at health fairs and other events and in the media.
  • Eaton Rapids Public Schools staff have been trained in and are teaching middle- and high-schoolers the "Signs of Suicide" program. This program is evidence based and aims to raise students' awareness about depression and suicide and teach them what they should do if they or their friends show signs of either.
  • Eaton Rapids Medical Center will begin screening all youth who are seen at their Family Practice clinic for depression.
  • The Suicide Prevention of Eaton County (SPEC) group meets monthly and includes local school employees, mental health professionals, public health, and Eaton Regional Education Service Agency staff. Their efforts include teaching the "Signs of Suicide" program to schools and bringing suicide- and depression-related professional development trainings such as safeTALK and Mental Health First Aid to the area.

What can parents do to check in with their children's mental health? "Communicate!" says Lorna (Lori) Poyer, a local licensed master social worker and member of the Suicide Prevention of Eaton County group. "Ask your teen about their day and really listen. Ask how they feel about topics such as depression, self-harm, and recent suicides. Don't be judgmental about their responses. Above all, you want open communication.

Those interested in getting involved in local efforts are welcome to attend ERHA--meetings are on the fourth Tuesday of each month from 3:30-5:00pm in the basement conference room at Eaton Rapids Medical Center--or SPEC--meetings are on the second Tuesday of each month from 12:00-1:00pm at Eaton RESA.

For more information on youth depression and suicide, visit the Youth Suicide Prevention Program website at and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website at For information on depression and suicide in general, visit the CDC's depression page at and its suicide page at

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, immediately call 800-273-TALK (800-273- 8255). This is a free, 24/7 confidential service that can provide people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, or those around them, with support, information, and local resources. You can also text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. This free text-message service provides 24/7 support to those in crisis.

-From the Barry-Eaton District Health Department

Article posted on June 30th 2017. - Article Permalink

June is Cataract Awareness Month

June is Cataract Awareness Month and the ophthalmologist at the Eaton Rapids Medical Center is well-equipped to handle any patient needs. Cataracts can form as someone ages, when proteins in the eye begin to break down and cause the vision to appear cloudy or blurry. Sometimes an individual is unaware that they are developing cataracts because the condition is painless and forms over time. Some potential symptoms of cataracts include: being sensitive to glare, cloudy, fuzzy, foggy, or filmy vision, difficulty seeing at night or in dim light, double vision, loss of color intensity, or frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions. If any of these symptoms are being experienced, it's best to consult with an ophthalmology professional.

Cataract removal surgery can vastly improve an individual's eyesight with very little recovery time needed. The ophthalmologist at ERMC, Dr. Michael Chames, is a highly-skilled surgical professional specializing in the no-stitch removal of cataracts with astigmatism correction. This is performed as an outpatient procedure and patients often have clearer eyesight the same day as the surgery.

Jamie Davidson recently had cataract removal surgery performed in both eyes by Dr. Chames at ERMC. "I knew I needed the procedure when my distance vision kept getting worse. It was a problem for everyday activities and night driving. I would recommend this procedure to others in the same boat," Davidson said about his decision to have the procedure. "Dr. Chames explained every step of the procedure in detail, so there were no surprises." Important methods for cataract prevention include wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays when spending time outdoors, and making regular visits to your ophthalmologist. For more information on cataracts, no-stitch cataract removal surgery, and the facilities and professionals at Eaton Rapids Medical Center, visit

Article posted on June 28th 2017. - Article Permalink

Protect Yourself This Summer! Sun Safety Resources Now Available!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. Nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year in the United States, at an estimated cost of $8.1 billion each year. Locally, in the next five years, about 2,500 new cases of skin cancer will happen in Barry and Eaton county residents.

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD), with grant funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Comprehensive Cancer Control Section, has been working to reduce the number of skin cancer cases by promoting sun safety. As part of this effort, BEDHD has officially launched their new skin cancer prevention website!

Included on this site are three webinars focused on sun safety for child care centers, recreational facilities, and outdoor workers in Barry and Eaton counties. The site also has a comprehensive list of resources available to help make child care centers, facilities, and businesses sun safe.

In addition, residents are reminded to follow these simple steps to stay sun safe this summer:

  • Apply a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 when going outside, even if it is cloudy
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and the delicate skin around your eyes
  • Wear a hat and long sleeved-clothing to protect other parts of your body from the sun
  • Try to avoid being out in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest

The link to the skin cancer prevention website is If you would like more information about sun safety or have any questions, please contact Lauren Cibor, Community Health Promotion Specialist at (517) 541-2624 in Eaton County and (269) 945-9516;2624 in Barry County.

-From the Barry-Eaton District Health Department

Article posted on June 26th 2017. - Article Permalink

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