A new analysis identifies key areas where mental health issues are on the rise--and offers suggestions to help students feel supported, like this brain and stethoscope.

Can data help schools address student mental health issues?

A new analysis identifies key areas where mental health issues are on the rise--and offers suggestions to help students feel supported

The four main findings, explored at length in the report, are:

1. Programs and services in school matter, especially for vulnerable populations.

For instance, special education students report experiencing more thoughts of suicide than their peers–22 percent compared to 14 percent. However, these students feel more positively than general education students do about the availability of an adult in school who they can talk to when they are feeling upset, stressed, or having problems (53 percent compared to 45 percent).

2. Middle school students report more positive experiences with their emotional and mental health than do high school students.

Twenty-eight percent of middle school students say that they have felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more that they stopped doing some usual activities in the last 12 months, while a larger proportion of high school students — 35 percent — say the same. When it comes to navigating resources when they need help, middle school students feel more positively than do high school students.

3. A greater proportion of students who identify in a way other than male or female report thoughts about suicide.

Twenty-one percent of students who identify as a gender other than male or female say that they have seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months. This is compared to 17 percent of female students and 11 percent of male students.

4. Female students are twice as likely to report experiencing prolonged sadness or hopelessness.

Prior research also shows that adult women are more at risk for severe depression and self-harm. Researchers have also explored the role of social media, and how the increased stress and pressure to succeed, plays into the emotional and mental well-being of school-aged girls.

When leaders and staff at Corvallis School District in Oregon got their YouthTruth student feedback results back, they were able to identify that over-commitment to extracurricular activities was causing anxiety in students.

“It’s really important that we know that and can now have that conversation with the community,” says Superintendent Ryan Noss. Based on their survey results, Corvallis invested in students’ mental health by hiring full-time therapists to increase the availability of trained staff and heightened the quantity and reach of messaging about available services that are available to students. The district will continue to track progress with annual anonymous surveys.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione
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