Let’s use technology tool to help teens who need help

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.

I urge resolutely the Wayland Board of Education to proceed with contracting with the student mental health service provided by the Clayful firm.

I recommend it despite acknowledging the program’s shortcomings, as suggested by two very different critics in Board President Dan Cassini and former art teacher Jake Gless. Both have made strong cases in opposition to Clayful’s heavy reliance on the Internet instead of the person-to-contact so valued in dealing with troubled students.

However, we must recognize the benefits the Internet can offer in these modern times, as opposed to that personal touch that may not be in touch when it is needed most.

Close personal contact with those who are hurting too often is absent at certain times, most critically when young people seriously consider making that awful decision to implement a permanent solution for a temporary problem. If a young man or woman is alone in the middle of the night without the prospect of someone getting in touch personally, the ability of some kind of contact could be crucial to saving a life.

Too often people who are stressed and challenged emotionally and mentally are not able to get in touch physically or by phone with counselors or mental health professionals, even though the 988 call program is being launched. Because contact via the Internet is 24-7, the client is better served with at least some avenue to talk this over immediately rather than the next day or Monday. It could buy precious time.

The business model I use with Townbroadcast is similar. I have cut back on personal contact with newsmakers and news events, instead relying on Internet programs such as Facebook or messaging. So instead of having to drop what I’m doing, get dressed, get in a car and drive to the scene like an ambulance chaser, I have access to getting the job done.

Because of the miracle of the Internet, I can become aware of important occurrences and developments without physically having to be present. And because of modern technology I can deal with the issue at hand at any time, except perhaps when I am asleep.

And so it is with a mental health professional who is unlikely to be available physically at the time the crisis is peaking. The Internet offers another way to start the ball rolling in the process of getting help. It won’t stop all teen-agers from committing suicide, but it has an excellent chance to reduce the numbers.

Teen suicide is fast becoming a serious national problem that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic that began three years ago. It’s getting more and more difficult for young people to navigate a troubling and frightening world, so we collectively must be prepared to deal with this problem at any time.

Though the Internet, particularly Facebook, too often is a pain in the ass, it also can be a valuable asset in our attempts to avert tragedies before it’s too late. I insist we use this as a tool for good.

And if, after more than a year, it doesn’t work out, then change course and find something better. When opportunity knocks, don’t complain about the noise.

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