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Children’s Hospital New Orleans holds 2nd annual Pediatric Mental Health Summit with key focuses on trauma and teen suicide

Special screening of “My Ascension” documentary spotlights the story of 16-year-old, Baton Rouge cheerleader, Emma Benoit, who was paralyzed by a suicide attempt.

NEW ORLEANS – Children's Hospital New Orleans and the LSU Health Foundation held the 2nd annual “Let’s Talk About It” Pediatric Mental Health Summit on Thursday, August 4 from 4-7 pm at Children’s Hospital. The summit brought together more than 100 professionals in the education and behavioral health professions to discuss mental health issues affecting our youth, with a special focus on trauma and teen suicide.

“Young people and their families are battling a mental health crisis that’s widened and deepened over the past two years. Mental disorders are an enemy that’s very good at hiding in plain sight,” said John R. Nickens IV, President and Chief Executive Officer at Children’s New Orleans. “Through our High5 challenge, we encourage kids to open up and talk about what’s going on. We hope the summit provided attendees with tools they can now bring back to their communities to encourage our youth to engage in real conversations about their mental health.”

The summit featured prominent speakers from Children’s New Orleans including Dr. Mark Kline, Physician in Chief and Chief Medical Officer at Children’s, who discussed the current state of child mental health in our country. Following the keynote address, attendees participated in a series of breakout sessions discussing:

  • The realities of social media and child mental health
  • Real talk: how to have conversations with kids about mental wellbeing
  • Understanding trauma in young children
  • School communities and mental health in a post-COVID world

This year’s event was geared toward any professional who works with kids, including teachers, social workers, community or youth-focused organizations, and healthcare professionals. Social workers had the opportunity to earn 3 professional CEU credits by attending the event.

One of the highlights of the Pediatric Mental Health Summit was the screening of My Ascension. My Ascension is a documentary film that focuses on the story of 16-year-old, Dutchtown High School varsity cheerleader Emma Benoit, who was paralyzed by a suicide attempt. Her attempt propelled her on a mission to use her painful experience to help others find hope and stay alive. Her journey is chronicled in the full-length feature film produced by award-winning producer, Greg Dicharry.

The film screening was followed by an engaging discussion on youth suicide prevention and mental wellness with Emma and a group of mental health experts, including the producer of My Ascension, Greg Dicharry, VIALINK's Sherrard Crespo, MSW, LMSW, Tonja Miles who is a United States Veteran, recovery coach and suicide attempt survivor, Children’s Hospital and LSU Health New Orleans Psychiatrist Megan Campbell, MD, Emergency Medicine Chief, Toni Gross, MD, Mark Ranatza, RN, Senior Director of Emergency and Behavioral Health Services, and Monique Soignet, Director of Family and Social Services for Jefferson Parish Schools.

The event also included several resource tables for attendees with important information on mental health and suicide prevention.

To learn more about the Behavioral Health Center at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, please visit www.chnola.org/behavioralhealth. For more information on the film, My Ascension, please visit www.myascension.us.

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About Children’s Hospital New Orleans

Children’s Hospital is a 257-bed, non-profit academic pediatric medical center that offers comprehensive healthcare services, including over 40 pediatric specialties, delivered just for children. With more than 600 pediatric trained providers, Children’s offers a comprehensive array of pediatric healthcare services in Louisiana and the Gulf South. In addition to its main campus located in New Orleans, the hospital operates a network of specialty clinics across Louisiana, including in Covington, Baton Rouge, Alexandria, Lafayette, and Bay St. Louis, MS. Children’s offers primary care services at 12 convenient locations and remotely via its Virtual Care for kids program. Children’s is a proud member of LCMC Health, a Louisiana-based, not-for-profit hospital system which also includes New Orleans East Hospital, Touro, University Medical Center New Orleans, West Jefferson Medical Center, and East Jefferson General Hospital. Learn more at chnola.org.