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Health, Science & Environment

Health officials focus on mental health access as depression and suicide rates remain high

A man uses a cell phone.
Jenny Kane
The U.S. transition the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to 988 in 2022.

Ohio health officials are working to improve mental health access as rates of depressions among youth and adults have increased in recent years. Ohio has had a higher number of suicides for the past several years.

"Ohio saw an all-time high in 2018, and although numbers have leveled off since then, the trend line for the past few years has not seen the kind of steady decline that we'd like to see,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Director of the Ohio Department of Health.

The most recent CDC statistics in 2020 show that 22 percent of Ohioans 18 or older said they had been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime.

Vanderhoff said substance use disorder is linked to mental health concerns. He says the number of unintentional overdoses is on the decrease in Ohio. However, it's too early to know if 2024 will also see a drop in overdose deaths.

Vanderhoff said the number of unintentional overdoses in Ohio increased from 2,110 in 2013 to 5,174 in 2021. He is optimistic for 2024.

“It's too early to say definitively, but preliminary data suggests the number may drop to close to 4500,” said Vanderhoff.

Director of Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, LeeAnne Cornyn said since 2020, the demand for behavioral health services was about twice the available supply of health care professionals.

“We've really seen demand for treatment explode across the state,” said Cornyn.

Cornyn said her department is also working to increase the number of behavioral health professionals through a Great Minds Fellowship. It provides a $10,000 credit to college students pursuing careers in social work, counseling, therapy, chemical dependency, and psychiatric nursing.

“The bottom line is we want all Ohioans to know that it's okay to not be okay, and that there is help available,” said Cornyn.

If your or anyone you know needs help you can call Ohio’s new suicide and crisis lifeline at 988 for assistance. It is a free and confidential service.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.