Kai Schrosk was among 15 Oregon students who asked debate questions to the state's governor candidates

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The 15 students who participated in the Debate for Oregon's Future pose for a photo with candidates Kate Brown, Knute Buehler and Patrick Starnes.Colton High School sopho­more Kai Schrosk took part in the gubernatorial Debate for Oregon's Future on Tues­day, Oct. 2.

Fifteen Oregon students were given a chance to ask questions of this year's candidates Kate Brown, Knute Buehler and Patrick Starnes. Each student had a chance to pose a question that was of particular impor­tance to them. They touched on a variety of subjects in­cluding climate change, gun safety, foster care and rural internet access. Schrosk ad­dressed the mental health is­sues faced by Oregon's young people.

His question to the candi­dates was: "In Oregon the second leading cause of death in youth 10 to 24 is suicide. According to the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon is well over the national aver­age and those numbers have been rising over the past de­cade.

"What plans in particular, beyond gun safety, would you do to protect youth from sui­cide and improve overall mental health, especially in high-risk groups such as male teens and the LGBTQ com­munity?"

"I directed my questions to candidates, Buehler and Brown," Schrosk said. "Rep­resentative Buehler respond­ed by talking about the men­tal health helplines his wife is affiliated with, which is im­portant and he was passion­ate about it, but I was looking for in-depth plans for funding instead of what is available now, which has not been enough.

"In her answer, Governor Brown talked about things she has accomplished," Schrosk added, "but she did offer more of a sense of plans for the future with additional resources in schools. Mr. Starnes talked about giv­ing youth hope and inspira­tion."

The stu­dents were given extra time after the debate to speak with the candidates. Schrosk said he was a little less disappointed with their re­sponses, as the candidates did talk about the importance of mental health care in schools and funding options.

When asked how he felt about the answers to his question Schrosk said, "I was encouraged by some of the progress that has been made by both candidates, but I was discouraged by the lack of plans."

When asked how he be­came a part of the Debate for Our Future, Schrosk said his grandmother heard about it and told his mother, who brought it to his attention. He submitted his question, it was approved, and then he had to sub­mit a video asking the ques­tion.

"Senior editors from the media helped us hone our thoughts so we could commu­nicate them as clearly as pos­sible," Shrosk said. "They were specifically looking for topics that are unique to our generation. I was impressed by all the questions and the determination of my fellow students to get their ques­tions answered.

"I'm glad I got the experi­ence," Schrosk continued. "I am interested in behavioral psychology as a career path. I want to do more work for the cause of mental health care within our government and community. I want to bring down the taboo of talking about mental health, and I want to contribute to the re­search that will help the world understand mental health issues."

Schrosk said he is going to keep the conversation rolling, bring it to the front line of conversations and help bring metal health education into schools, community and workplaces.

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