CLEVELAND — The COVID-19 pandemic pushed mental health to the forefront of conversations.
Last week, federal data revealed anxiety and depression were on the rise among children before the pandemic started. The mental health concerns aren’t exclusive to children as rates have also skyrocketed for adults.
Fortunately, help is on the way in the form of grant money to fund additional programs for mental health in Ohio.
OhioGuidestone, the state’s leading behavioral and mental health agency, is receiving $970,000 to streamline services, specifically for children.
The extra help makes a huge difference for people like Maria Brenders and her three children. Brenders has been working nonstop to keep her bakery, the Three Girls Cupcake Shoppe in Berea, up and running while supporting her kids.
“One of the best ways to heal yourself is to take your pain and turn it into passion,” Brenders said.
Despite pandemic restrictions lifting and life slowly returning to normal, she’s still worried about the mental health of her children after Brender’s husband unexpectedly passed away.
Years later, Brenders began dating again when her boyfriend also passed away.
Both men died by suicide.
“A lot of times you have guilt and I have learned that there is no one and no one reason why somebody takes their own life other than mental health,” Brenders said, “My husband’s father committed suicide as well. I knew that this was going to be a hereditary problem.”
The money awarded to OhioGuidestone will help kickstart a new program called OhioRise. Under the new program, OhioGuidestone will be the single point of contact for the 2,400 kids in the program.
“We really just want these kids to be functioning better in their homes, in school, in their communities and really just throughout their whole lives,” said OhioGuidestone executive director Mary Stiles.
Stiles said the pandemic has had a tremendous impact on her organization, noting a significant increase in mental health and substance abuse issues across the board.
OhioRise will streamline services for children and young adults ages 21 and under with complex behavioral health issues. The program will allow them to stay in their home, or a foster home, as opposed to a facility that may be out of state.
“There are some kids that have really significant challenges and needs, and they’re involved with so many different programs and systems that it becomes incredibly challenging, if not impossible, for families to navigate,” Stiles said.
Brenders hopes the programs geared towards mental health will continue to be a top priority in Ohio. She feels the counseling at OhioGuidestone has changed her and her family’s lives, and they’ve created a special treat for the organization’s birthday this year.
“We have a special cupcake for them and every purchase from the cupcake is going all the proceeds directly to OhioGuidestone,” she said.
In addition to helping the 2,400 new clients, the program will also create 150 jobs. It’s expected to be up and running by July 1st.
If you are struggling right now, help is available. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
You can call 24-hours a day where counselors can connect you to services through OhioGuidestone.
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.