- 29.9% of students felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing some of their usual activities in the 12 months prior to the survey.
- 17.7% of students had seriously considered attempting suicide in the 12 months prior to the survey.
- 14.6% of students had made a plan as to how they would attempt suicide in the 12 months prior to the survey.
- 8.6% of students had attempted suicide one or more times during the 12 months before the survey
- 2.8% of students had made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse in the 12 months prior to the survey.
What Can Schools do?
Social and emotional issues can seem to be a distant concern for administrators and teachers with all of the pressure to increase students’ academic performance. Is it within the purview of schools to take on issues like trauma, depression, anxiety and PTSD? The reality is, we’re already dealing with it! Manifestations of stress, trauma, and depression can be seen every day in a school. Look at any student discipline referral and you will see evidence of some social or emotional issue: defiance, aggression, impulsivity, non-compliance, frustration, avoidance, absenteeism, and disengagement. How can schools begin to shift students from survival mode up into learning mode? Answer: reduce the number of triggers and help students better cope with stress while experiencing it. Here are a few ideas how to do this:
- Create safe and supportive classroom environments for students to learn in. In my last blog entitled Creating a Trauma Free Classroom, I listed some concrete strategies to make classrooms more welcoming and safe for all students. The blog is available at: www.wellschoolscenter.org/whatsnew/.
- Teach students to advocate for themselves and stand up to others. Recent research on bullying has found that incidents of harassment and bullying are reduced when other students stand up for the target (Salmivalli, C. et al, 1996). In a recent LinkedIn article entitled Why Empathy Holds the Key to Transforming 21st Century Learning, Dr.Thom Markham explains some of the neuroscience behind why teaching students to become more empathetic leads to better learning, collaboration, creativity, and overall health status. His article is available at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-empathy-holds-key-transforming-21st-century-thom-markham-phd?trk=hp-feed-article-title-shar.
- Form or expand the role of your school’s Student Assistance Teams to screen and refer students to appropriate services in the school and community. Regularly remind faculty and staff to refer students to the team who may be experiencing problems with trauma or stress. Work with them to adapt and develop response to intervention protocols to support students with social, emotional, and behavioral problems while at school.
- Re-deploy current resources to assist in supporting students coping with acute or chronic trauma. If you are fortunate enough to have an Adjustment Counselor in your school or district, have them implement therapeutic strategies that are well researched and have been shown to be effective in reducing the impact of trauma and stress including: Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS), Support for Students Exposed to Trauma (SSET), the Multi-Modality Trauma Treatment (MMTT), Stress-Inoculation Training, and Trauma Grief Component Treatment. (Kataoka, et al, 2012)
- Provide opportunities for students to get involved and develop a sense of “connectedness” with school. The Centers for Disease Control has published a wonderful booklet describing ways that administrators and teachers can improve protective factors by fostering school connectedness. This resource is available at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/pdf/connectedness_administrators.pdf
Kataoka, S., Langley, A., Wong, M., Baweja, S., Stein, B. (2012). Responding to Students with PTSD in Schools. Child Adolescent Psychiatry. Vol 21(1). 119-x.
Markham, T. (2016) Why Empathy Holds the Key to Transforming 21st Century Learning. Available at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-empathy-holds-key-transforming-21st-century-thom-markham-phd?trk=hp-feed-article-title-shar
Rivera, F., Le Menestrel, S. Editors. (2016). Preventing Bullying through Science, Policy, and Practice. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Available at: https://www.nap.edu/read/23482/chapter/1
Salmivalli, C., Lagerspetz, K., Björkqvist, K., Österman, K., and Kaukiainen, A. (1996). Bullying as a group process: Participant roles and their relations to social status within the group. Aggressive Behavior, 22(1), 1-15.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009) Fostering School Connectedness: Improving Student Health and Academic Achievement. Division of Adolescent and School Health. July. Available at www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth
Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States. (2015). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries / Vol. 65 / No. 6 June 10, 2016