By Nancy Gutierrez

According to marriage and family therapist Bev Anderson, adolescence is the time in a young persons life when guidance is needed most Unfortunately it is also the time when most parents and children grow apart.

"Stress in children is up," Anderson said. "When they hit adolescence, it just blossoms. That is when depression comes on. There are a lot of issues that they go through and during childhood it looks low key. But at adolescence it becomes a significant issue."

Increased stress can lead to depression and suicidal tendencies. The Center for Disease Control reports that suicide is the leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds.

"Tulare County had as many as seven to nine suicides last year," Anderson said. "Tulare County now has the highest suicide rate in California."

Anderson said after a third suicide by a student at Mt. Whitney High School was reported, a forum on teen resiliency was held in Visalia.

"Two hundred and fifty parents showed up," she said.

With such an enormous turnout, Anderson and the organizations involved in putting on the forum, decided to continue providing information to communities throughout Tulare County.

Synchrony - a non-profit organization that provides mental health services to families - along with Healthy Kids Healthy Lindsay, the California Endowment and the Mental Health Round Table will present "Creating a Caring Community: the rough years – how to help your teenagers survive and thrive," at 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 16 at the Presbyterian Church, 351 E. Hermosa St. Anderson is a featured speaker at the community forum, which will discuss developing resiliency in youth and families.

"Overall we will talk about parents being aware of the stressors during childhood and adolescence and what to look for in terms of signs and symptoms of depression," Anderson said.

She was quick to point out that the forum is not just for parents, but students, school employees and members of the community in general.

"Lindsay is a great community and like the saying goes, 'it takes a village to raise a child,'" she said. "Everyone needs to be the eyes and ears of the community. The children at your church or your child's best friend, think of them as your kids."

The forum essentially helps adults learn how to communicate with teens and helps families learn to become more resilient. Anderson said the suicide rate for children ages 15-19 has tripled since the 1950s.

"People who don't believe there is a problem have their head in the sand," she said. "Parents need to keep on top of their kids. Many just don't know how to intervene and when."

Representatives from Tulare County Youth Services, Healthy Start, Reconnecting Youth and National Association of Melkite Youth (NAMY) will participate in the forum as well as a Tulare County school psychologist, and the director of the Teen Zone Rich Rodriguez. A list of questions used by professionals to screen for depression will be available to take home.

Anderson is a founding member of Synchrony, which focuses on the importance of family life and helps to strengthen families. For more information call 635-4252.

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