Springfield parents say shortage of mental health resources may have cost their son his life

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. A Springfield family is sharing their story of the loss of their son in hopes of helping another young person before it's too late.

Students at Central High School lost one of their classmates last month.

Sophomore Ethan Long was just like any other kid. However, when he started struggling no one knew how bad it really was until it was too late.

"He was a normal, happy, rambunctious child. He was a tremendously liked student. He had lots of friends," said Ethan Long's father, Steve Long.

Ethan Long was 15 years-old and just about finished with his second year of high school.

He seemed to be just like every other kid until he got older.

"But the depression I think was really the last couple of years," said Kristin Long, Ethan Long's step-mother.

Steven Long said, "As the years went by he started getting more and more withdrawn."

They said they first noticed something was really wrong with their son just before this Christmas.

"Just little red flags here and there kept popping up more and more. I knew something was unraveling with him that I needed to get figured out. It wasn't too long after that that he attempted suicide the first time," explained Steve Long.

Ethan Long's friends and teachers noticed marks on his neck and notified school counselors.

Though not authorized to talk about Ethan Long's case due to privacy, Rhonda Mammen, Director of Counseling Services for Springfield Schools said the district has professionals ready to help kids in times of crisis.

"They're trained in the same way that professional counselors are that do private practice. However, in the school setting their role looks really a lot different. We're not equipped to do long time, long term therapy in the same way they would clinically," she said.

The district gave the Longs a list of resources. They chose Burrell Behavioral Health for Ethan Long's treatment. However, they had to wait.

"The need is so overwhelmingly great that they don't have enough people to get everybody in a timely manner," said Steve Long.

Burrell Behavioral Health wouldn't speak about Ethan Long's case, again, due to privacy laws, but did issue this statement that reads in part:

"As mental health awareness has increased, the need for qualified clinicians has also increased, and we will continue working at a local, state and national level to address the workforce, funding and resource challenges that impact all mental health services. At a local level, we are enhancing our collaborative efforts with community health partners to ensure a comprehensive and timely response to any individual with a mental health need. We strive to treat each client with dignity and respect as we provide individualized and trauma-informed mental health care."

The Long's said their son was finally able to get into Burrell Behavioral Health for help but it was too late.

"If he would have had more help. If the problem was addressed at a sooner time, you know, maybe, just maybe, he'd still be here. I guess my only advice for other parents would be, be very aware of what's going on with your kids. Don't assume that things are okay," said Steven Long.

Springfield Schools just updated their policy on suicide prevention at Tuesday's board meeting.

Councilors start working with kids as young as kindergartners to help them manage stress and deal with their feelings.