Silent Epidemic-Elisabeth’s Story

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is becoming an epidemic among our young people with a more than 70 percent increase in suicides between 2006 and 2016. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24 behind unintentional injury. In Mississippi, for every child who dies by suicide, there are 25 attempts. Statistics from the 2015 Youth Risk Survey taken in Mississippi indicated 15 percent of high school seniors reported having seriously considered suicide in the last year; 13 percent had attempted suicide, and six percent had received medical treatment for a suicidal injury. These stats are troubling and are growing ever closer to home.

In May 2018, Teresa Mosley spoke at Canopy Children’s Solutions’ Children’s Mental Health Summit. Teresa told the story of her daughter Elisabeth who is eternally 15.

Teresa speaking at the 2018 Children’s Mental Health Summit in May, sharing the story of her daughter, Elisabeth, and their lives after suicide.

Elisabeth was a typical teenager. She was smart, creative, caring, compassionate, an “old soul” who loved classic novels, black and white Hitchcock movies, animals and cinematography. Elisabeth was also among the 20 percent of youth who struggle with mental health challenges. Despite all the things that were right in her life, depression clouded Elisabeth’s ability to see the light beyond her darkness. She took her own life on June 13, 2006.

“Statistics are just numbers until you love one of those numbers, and I have loved one of those numbers,” said Mosley. “I want people to know that suicide is not prejudiced, it affects everyone. I pray that God will use the memory of [Elisabeth’s] life so that her death will not have been in vain.”

Mosley read the poem “Not Waving but Drowning,” by British poet Stevie Smith. She then explained the importance of recognizing when a person is struggling with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. While at a distance it may appear as if a person is fine and simply waving, in reality they are drowning.

Here are a few signs everyone should know that may indicate someone is struggling and may be at risk of suicide. If you recognize any of these symptoms in a child, teen or young adult, talk openly with them and seek professional help.

  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • trouble in romantic relationships/close personal relationships
  • slump in academic performance
  • giving away possessions
  • writing or drawing pictures about death
  • changes in eating habits
  • dramatic personality changes/signs of despair
  • deterioration of personal hygiene
  • problems sleeping
  • participation in risky behavior (drugs, alcohol, sex, self-harm)
  • talk of suicide, even in a joking way
  • have a plan of how they would commit suicide
  • having a history of suicide attempts

Mosley also spoke of the importance of not only adults recognizing and taking action if someone is talking about suicide, but also our youth.

When Emily, Mosley’s youngest daughter, was in 7th grade (approximately four years after Elisabeth’s death), a boy in her school posted on social media that he was going to take his life. Emily, with great concern in her heart, hurried to school alerting the school counselor. The boy was not at school that day. School administrators went to his home and were able to intervene, saving the boy’s life and getting him connected with help. That day, Emily understood the importance of speaking honestly and openly about her family’s experience, challenging the stigma with suicide and mental health, and to never to mistake a cry for help as a ploy for attention. Speaking up helped save a life.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, know that you are not alone; there are a number of resources available to those in crisis. Mississippi Department of Mental Health is the statewide provider for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. If someone is in imminent danger, go to your nearest emergency room immediately and connect with a local mental health provider.

Laura Walker is the staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions. Canopy is Mississippi’s most comprehensive nonprofit provider of children’s behavioral health, educational and social service solutions with locations across the state. For more information about services offered through Canopy, visit or call 800-388-6247.

This article was featured in Parents & Kids Magazine September/October 2018 Desoto Edition. Click here to see more from Parents & Kids Magazine.

Canopy Opens Community Resource Room in Olive Branch

Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy) hosted an Open House on Thursday, August 30, celebrating the opening of its new Community Resource Room. The event was held at Canopy’s Northwest Community Office located at 9855 Highway 178 Suites A and B, in Olive Branch and included tours of the new amenity. Several members of the public as well as representatives from state organizations attended to learn more about what the new room would offer.

Resource Room Open House

The Community Resource Room was funded by a special-project grant from the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.

“Our expectation for the Community Resource Room is to be a place where parents, teachers, care givers, and other members of the community can come to get information on children’s issues,” said Jody Herring, North Regional Director for Canopy Children’s Solutions. “Even if it is not a service our organization provides in the community, we want to be a resource that helps steer people to where they can and will get help for their children.”

The Community Resource Room offers free resources to individuals looking for information on childhood issues such as mental health, suicide, autism, counseling, stress, abuse, and educational challenges. The room will be accessible during regular business hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To get more information about the new Community Resource Room or to schedule private use, please call 662-890-6906.

Shea Hutchins Named Chief Solutions Officer


Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy) proudly introduces Shea Hutchins, LCSW as Chief Solutions Officer. Prior to assuming this new position, Hutchins served as Senior Director of Operations.

Shea HutchinsAs Canopy Chief Solutions Officer, Hutchins oversees day-to-day operations and direction of the organization’s statewide continuum of services, which includes the state’s most comprehensive array of children’s behavioral health, educational and social service solutions as well as oversight of admissions and medical staff. Her role within the executive team helps to disseminate information about strategic goals throughout the organization as well as the implementation of new programs through strategic initiatives. Hutchins is instrumental in helping to identify and develop talent within Canopy staff turning strong workers into organizational leaders.

“I love being able to take an active role in serving our children and families by ensuring we deliver the best high-value, comprehensive, and whole-person solutions to some of the great challenges facing children and youth in our state,” said Hutchins. “We have such passionate and talented people at all levels of the organization. In this role, I want to help them grow not just as supervisors or managers but develop into leaders who are true champions for our cause and ultimately our kids.”

Hutchins’ career spans over 20 years including both clinical and administrative leadership experience. Much of Hutchins’ experience was carefully nurtured and developed through different roles.  Within the Canopy organization, Hutchins has served as a clinical therapist for CARES Center Jackson, CARES Clinical Director, Residential Division Director and Senior Director of Operations. Hutchins also has worked for Rankin County School District as a General Education Behavior Specialist.

Hutchins holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Mississippi College and a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Alabama.  She completed two years post-graduate clinical supervision to obtain her license in Clinical Social Work. Hutchins and her husband are proud parents to two children and live in Clinton, Mississippi.

The Alarming Rise in Child Suicide and What You Should Know

Youth suicide is on the rise. After 15 years of decline, rates took a steady increase at the turn of the 21st century. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 15,141 youth suicides (ages 5-18) in the U.S. between 1999 and 2009. Between 2010 and 2016, there were 11,939 youth suicides, an average increase of 31 percent in six years over rates of the previous decade. Let’s think about that. These statistics start with kids as young as five years old.

The CDC reports suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 12-18. These tragedies leave many families, friends and loved ones asking, “why?” Youth interviewed after suicide attempts often report feelings of despair, emptiness, wanting revenge or needing an escape. When young people experience intense emotions related to difficult situations, such as breakups, a recent loss or abuse, they often seek out ways to regain a sense of control over their lives. This may come in the form of healthy coping skills like talking to a trusted adult or journaling to make sense of their feelings, or they may resort to unhealthy mechanisms such as self-harm or self-medicating. If a child takes an unhealthy path, he or she is at an increased risk of suicide.


Knowing what is happening in children’s lives and recognizing when to get help are the best ways to keep children safe. If you notice your child is struggling, having a conversation with your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician is a great first step. They can serve as a guide before a situation dangerously escalates, and they can help rule out chemical imbalances or other medical diagnoses that may contribute to changes in behavior. If you feel something is amiss, it is important to take action.

What if I know a child grappling with suicidal thoughts?

Many times, individuals who are considering suicide show clear signs of trouble. Signs can include: talking or writing about death; loss of interests; withdrawing from friends and family; changes in appearance or decline in hygiene; trying to access medications or weapons; giving away possessions; or showing intense anger or hopelessness followed by sudden calm. If you have suspicions about a child, talk to them openly and directly to determine the help they need.

When talking to someone about suicide, whether you are a parent or another trusted adult, you need to know how urgent the situation is. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Show confidence in the face of crisis
  • Be up front about your concerns
  • Ask them directly about suicidal thoughts; don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide”
  • Recognize they may not be honest, so observe their behavior
  • Listen and validate their feelings; don’t be judgmental
  • Ask them to give you specific details about their thoughts including how they would commit the act, when, and if they have the means to carry it out
  • If the child is in imminent danger, DO NOT leave him alone and seek medical help immediately
  • Do not mistake a cry for help as a ploy for attention; all thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously

Some youth may be embarrassed to admit they have thoughts about suicide. Under no circumstances should you promise to keep someone’s thoughts about suicide a secret. Explain that as a person who cares about the youth’s wellbeing, that this is not a secret you can keep. Assure them they should not feel ashamed or alone and thank them for being honest. Connect them with a counselor and offer to go with them for emotional support. If you are not the parent or guardian, encourage the youth to have an open conversation with their parents about how they are feeling. Continue to be there for them – your sustained support may be their greatest reinforcement.

Get real about suicide

Suicide is a hard topic to breach, but one that every parent should talk about with their child. In all likelihood, your child probably already knows about suicide either from popular teenage drama series like “13 Reasons Why,” popular YouTube videos, or any number of social media posts, movies, or maybe even real life experiences. Parents can’t hide children from the reality of suicide, but informing yourself about what children are seeing, and talking to them about what they’ve seen or heard can offer a powerful lifeline. Helping them to grasp the severity of suicide – no coming back, no opportunity for things to get better, no reward or satisfaction – will help to save lives.

Get help

Just because an imminent threat has passed doesn’t mean the danger is gone. The CDC estimates 90 percent of individuals who commit suicide were experiencing a mental health crisis at the time of death.

“Mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, have periods of improvement and worsening,” said Dr. John Wilkaitis, Medical Director for Canopy Children’s Solutions. “Even though a child may seem okay, it is important to seek professional help to better understand and address the underlying cause of suicidal thoughts and feelings. Therapists can help youth develop a safety plan as well as aid them in developing positive coping skills to deal with intense emotions.”

Feeling alone is one of the most critical factors of suicide. Know that you are never truly alone; there are a number of resources available to those in crisis. Mississippi Department of Mental Health is the statewide provider for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. If someone is in imminent danger, go to your nearest emergency room immediately. If you find you need someone to talk to about suicidal thoughts or difficult situations, seek out a local mental health organization or contact area churches about free counseling ministries.

Contributed by Laura Walker, staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions

This article is shared with permission from Well-Being Magazine. It was originally
published in the magazine’s March/April 2018 issue. For more from Well-Being visit

Mayor Gives Official Proclamation for National Safe Place Week

The South Mississippi Children’s Center (SMCC), part of Canopy Children’s Solutions, hosted a special proclamation ceremony in honor of National Safe Place Week. The event, working in conjunction with the mayor’s office and Hattiesburg Fire Department (HFD), took place Thursday, March 22, 2018, at HFD Station No. 1.

Mayor Toby Barker

The ceremony included an official proclamation and remarks from the Hattiesburg mayor, the Honorable Toby Barker, and Canopy South Central Regional Director Tammy Miller in honor of National Safe Place Week. SMCC also recognized Safe Place sites who were in attendance with a certificate of appreciation for their partnership in the program, including HFD, Hattiesburg Police Department and the city library, among others.

Tammy MillerSafe Place is a national youth outreach and prevention program for young people under the age of 18, and up to 21 years of age in some communities, in need of immediate help and safety. As a collaborative community prevention initiative, Safe Place designates businesses and organizations as Safe Place sites, making help readily available to youth in communities across the country.Safe Place site partnerSMCC is the Safe Place agency in south Mississippi, offering safety and shelter to youth in crisis in Forrest, Lamar, Covington, Jones, Stone and other surrounding counties and states. SMCC has 43 designated Safe Place sites throughout the region including local restaurants, libraries, daycare centers, youth organizations, and police and fire departments, where youth can go for immediate help and get connected with SMCC. These sites are designated by the black and yellow Safe Place sign.

“Youth who come to SMCC through Safe Place can stay at the shelter up to 21 days at no cost to the parent or guardian,” said Teri Gay, Case Manager for SMCC. “We ensure that basic needs are met for every child that enters the shelter as well as services that include individual and group counseling, referral, support, case management, educational services, recreational activities, medical (physical, dental, and vision exams), and other services as needed. We work on a safety plan and long-term plan to ensure youth return to a safe environment when they leave the shelter.”


Mississippi Safe Place Agencies

In addition to the proclamation ceremony, Canopy staff across the state wore the signature colors black and yellow to show support of Canopy’s Safe Place programs.

National Safe Place Week is designated for March 18-24, 2018. This week marks the 35th anniversary of the founding of Safe Place in Lexington, Kentucky in 1983. Since that time, Safe Place has developed partnerships with 138 Safe Place agencies in 37 states nationwide with more than 21,000 partnering sites within local communities. Mississippi has three Licensed Safe Place Agency programs, including SMCC in Hattiesburg, and the Warren County Children’s Shelter, also part of Canopy Children’s Solutions, located in Vicksburg.

For more information Safe Place, please visit