Some area school districts have seen their share of students with depression or anxiety issues. Administrators have taken action to try and assist students that they suspect may suffer from these issues. They are encouraging staff and students to report behaviors that may indicate developing issues with possible depressed or anxiety suffering students.
As the school year winds down, education leaders are also shedding light on increased mental-health demands among students, including thoughts of suicide. Various organizations in Iowa also are calling attention to the issue during Mental Health Awareness Month.
Lisa Cushatt, executive director of the trauma healing group Iowa ACES 360, said concerns were building prior to the pandemic, but adds the crisis has added layers of mental health issues for children and adolescents. She said what’s happening now shatters the myth that kids are born resilient, especially when adults in their lives feel extra stress simultaneously.
According to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 44% of U.S. high school students recently reported persistently feeling sad or hopeless in the past year. And nearly 20% had seriously considered attempting suicide.
Last month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening for anxiety in youths between the ages of 8 and 18.
While school counselors are responding to more referrals, there are calls to enhance training for all staff to help these students. Those suggestions coincide with gaps in locating enough providers who can help a child away from campus.
Erin Drinnin, community impact officer for health of the United Way Central Iowa, said Iowa Children’s Behavioral System is feeling the impact of the workforce shortage.
The Coalition to Advance Mental Health in Iowa for Kids recommends actions such as student loan forgiveness and maintaining telehealth flexibilities.
Julia Webb, program director for NAMI Iowa, said parents and educators can be proactive by intervening when warning signs pop up.
For crisis situations, signs include expressing great shame and plans that point to ending their life.