One hundred and seventy-five people attended a workshop on Saturday to learn how to foresee the unforeseeable and how to recognize the unrecognizable.
For the attendees at the Organizing Resources Around Needs Oran Saye Memorial Workshop, the day's focus centered on gaining knowledge of how to help children and teens with various mental illnesses and disorders.
More specifically, the workshop – held at Boltz Junior High – focused on recognizing the warning signs created when individuals with illnesses such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), unipolar depression and bipolar disorder contemplate suicide.
"We are here today to educate teachers, parents and counselors to recognize suicide warning signs from their child, patient or student," said Diane Saye, the workshop's organizer.
Saye, who organized the workshop after her 12-year-old son, Oran, who had ADD, took his own life, said the disorders are not just a problem for younger individuals.
"These illnesses are a big problem in college-age students, with big-time effects on the students," Saye said. " For college students in the 15-24 age group, suicide is the second highest cause of death. In many cases, students just don't get the help they need."
Keynote speaker Janice Papolos, author of "Overcoming Depression and The Bi-Polar Child," agreed that mental disorders are an issue on all college campuses.
"A lot of people choose not to reveal that they have a condition because of the stigma associated with them," Papolos said. "The disorders are very common, and in times of great stress, like in college, the disorders are triggered even more."
One college student, Becca Frazee, a junior psychology major, sat on the youth panel that discussed what it is like to live with a mental disorder from a student's perspective.
"It's hard for a lot of students to come out and say they are sick, because there is a stigma associated with it," said Frazee, who is bipolar. "It's instinctual; they know they are sick, they know it's not normal the way they are feeling, but they are just embarrassed. That's why it is so important for friends, family and teachers to recognize the signs, because the individual may not come out with it themselves."
The warning signs indicating an individual has a mood disorder, or is contemplating suicide, are unclear. The nature of mood disorders and illnesses means every individual demonstrates different types of signals for help, said MacKenzie Kelly, a youth-panel member.
"'Good luck' is all I have to say. It is so hard to notice that someone is sick if they don't want you to," said Kelly, a senior psychology major who has unipolar depression. "I was a three-sport athlete, president of my class and on homecoming court in high school. No one knew I was sick until I pretty much had a breakdown and told my parents."
Although the warning signs vary, there are signals common to many individuals with mood disorders, Kelly said.
"If you are sleeping ridiculous amounts of time, drinking to self-medicate, if you are constantly down in the dumps, or you are withdrawing from your normal life, you may have a disorder," Kelly said.
The best way to help people who are suffering from mood disorders is to simply be there for them, Kelly said.
"Having someone really listen to you really, really helps," she said.