Five years after Sergey committed suicide, the mental health services he needs most are still not available in Iowa

Some of us in the front row gasped from the documentary’s opening image: a handsome, sandy-haired teenager, eyes closed, tightly embracing his sparkling smiling mother at the top of the Capitol, the city skyline in the distance.

Larry Luce, Sergey Neubauer and Marie Neubauer pose in front of Sergey’s high school concert on April 22, 2017 (Image courtesy of Marie Neubauer and Larry Luce)

We gasped, tears had already begun, because five years ago this month, that young man, Sergei Neubauer, died by suicide. He was a smart, kind and caring 18-year-old who did his best to help others, even as he worked to hide his trauma. The pain of losing him is still excruciating.

The documentary, “Facing Suicide in Iowa” by Iowa PBS, tells the story of Sergey and another bright and promising teenager from Iowa, Cameron Karikowho lost his life by suicide in 2012. The program and panel discussion, which took place on September 6 after the premiere, made it clear that while there has been real and significant progress in Iowa, there is still a long way to go.

The A 30-minute documentary about Iowa It will air at 6:30 p.m. on September 13th. It is a companion to the 90-minute national documentary, “Facing Suicide,” which will air at 8 p.m. that night. Iowa TV Show.

Sergey’s parents, best friends Mary Neubauer and Larry Luce, have devoted a large part of their lives since their son’s death to working to improve mental health services in the state. By the time Sergey died, there were few mental health resources for anyone, let alone children like Sergey, and parents like Neubauer and Loos were left to trying to get help themselves.

In hindsight, Neubauer said during the panel discussion that working for change “was our way of standing in the dark and screaming, ‘Do you see this?'” Do you see this?’ — and you want legislators and policy makers and just everyone in the community to see this and be willing to do something about it.”

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I encourage everyone, especially parents, voters, incumbents, and candidates in Iowa, to watch Suicide Confrontation. But here are some things you should know:

  • The suicide rate in Iowa much higher than national averageAnd the getting worse.
  • The 2021 Iowa Youth Poll showed that 24% of 11The tenth Classes have reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year. The percentage of sixth graders was 17% – still shockingly high. About half of children who have contemplated suicide have actually made a suicide plan and about a quarter have attempted it.
  • “We’re seeing a slight rise in all signs of suicidal ideation and…prevalence in our state — rates of binge drinking for depression and access to crisis mental health services,” said Kelly Garcia, director of the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, during the documentary. The indicators have a steep trajectory in our state.”

Iowa has made some progress in developing access to services over the past five years, reforming its territorial system and creating a framework for children’s mental health. Iowans have new crisis intervention services, including citizen Suicide and Crisis Hotline It is reached by calling 988.

New mobile crisis units work with law enforcement to address mental health crises in the field, helping to prevent incidents from escalating into arrests or worse. Iowa has two new mental health hospitals, adding beds for crisis care. The ruler has Federal Assistance Directive Towards school mental health programmes, including training teachers to recognize warning signs. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the use of telehealth services to provide mental health counseling.

These developments were painstakingly made and took an enormous amount of work by advocates such as Mary, Larry, Brian, Dawn Carico, and many others. It’s important and it will save the lives of Iowans. I don’t want to downplay it.

Lawyer: We have a child mental health system built of toothpicks

But intervention in the crisis is just the beginning. In the documentary, Jennifer Ole-Wales of the advocacy group Please Pass Love was very honest in her assessment of the Iowa system and some of its leaders:

“So when I’m in the Capitol, and I talk to lawmakers, and they say to me, ‘Jane, mental health isn’t really a thing. It’s just bad parenting, “It’s so frustrating, because that’s not accurate. It’s not evidence-based, it’s not science-based. And it totally rejects an entire experience that we know millions of people are going through. And when you have that mindset, it means you’re also not Defending the components it represents.”

(Some of us watching the Iowa PBS documentary gasp again at this point. Some may have been shocked. To me, the outrage was at the level of ignorance it takes for a lawmaker to make such an observation about bad parenting.)

Yuli-Wells added: “That’s why in Iowa, we have a child mental health system built of toothpicks. So when you look at a mental health system that is built out of toothpicks, and then you have a disaster like COVID blowing, of course, your system is going to collapse.”

One of the most acute needs in Iowa is simply to make more providers available, especially those with experience treating children. Programs like loan forgiveness for providers, more psychiatric residencies at the University of Iowa, and tiered compensation for hospitals that treat the most serious illnesses can be effective, but they need resources.

That may be why five years after Serge Neubauer’s death, Iowa still lacks a long-term subacute residential treatment center for adolescents and young adults. It’s not hospital admission but it’s time in a safe place to learn coping skills and put them into practice for months. Mary Neubauer said they had to go out of state to find those services for Serge – too far away, so the whole family struggled from the distance.

“It’s my dream to get there one day because that’s what our son desperately needs and we couldn’t find here,” said Marie Neubauer.

I hope Iowa policymakers will seriously consider making mental health access a priority in the state’s budget and policy. I hope voters make it their job to elect people who will work for change. Those who would like to help can start by contacting the NAMI Iowa advocacy group, [email protected] or (515) 254-0417.

And if you are in a crisis or know someone, please contact Iowa Hotline 988.

Watching a documentary isn’t fun, even if you don’t lose anyone to suicide. It certainly wasn’t fun for Mary and Larry to retell their story. But it is important. This makes a difference. Iowa kids deserve better than a house of toothpicks.

Are they painful, or are such events painful? Yes,” said Marie Neubauer. “But I still speak up and try to push for change away from deep-rooted fear, quite frankly, because I know how many other families are in the situation now that we’re with Sergey. And unless we make changes, they’re going to have the same horrible outcome we had, so let’s keep talking about it, let’s all keep pushing for change, because that’s the only way things will get better.”

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