FAIRFIELD – It is a tsunami of needs that has affected our schools, according to Allyson Rude Azevedo, Director of Student Service, at the Travis school board meeting, Tuesday evening.
She along with Sylvia Crowder, School Social Worker, provided an overview of the mental health and climate of the school district.
The Revelations Rocked the attending parents, causing much outrage.
In February of this year an Anonymous survey was handed out to students from elementary school through high school to judge how things were going emotionally for them.
The number of respondents was high with nearly 97% of students responding to the survey from grades three through 12. They were asked to answer a few questions on how they were feeling about certain topics for this school year alone.
The study looked at protective factors like school connection, caring adults at school, high expectations from school and feeling safe at school. It also compared these results against risk factors such as harassment and bullying, chronic sadness and suicidal ideation / self-harm.
Now students in the protective factors category put up a connection to school along with having adults who care about them in the school. For the most part, they felt safe at school with 80% of elementary students responding along with 72% of middle school students, 75% of high school students and alternative education students saying 93% of them felt safe in school.
The risk factors for mental health issues were illuminating. In elementary school 33% of students felt that they had been bullied or harassed. In middle school the percentage was less than 20%, saying they felt they were bullied and high school it fell to 11% and for Alternative Education it was 10%.
The next couple of questions are what set people back in surprise.
Elementary school students responded to the inquiry of “My mental health negatively impacts my daily life,” with 41% saying yes their mental health was impacting daily life. Middle schoolers responded with 41% agreeing with that statement. In high school that percentage went higher to 44% and for Alternative Education it was 39%.
Next the question was “I have thoughts of harming myself.”
“We didn’t give this survey to the elementary students,” said Rude Azevedo.
Middle school students responded with a total of 16% saying they thought about harming themselves. The high school students responded with 12% and in Alternative Education, 16% agreed they had thoughts of self-harm.
There are many contributing factors to the mental health of children ranging from the global crisis of the Pandemic and the resulting Responses from that to academic stresses like grades. Playing to this is the sense of loss and grief many people are experiencing for a variety of reasons.
In addition, students are dealing with seeing their parents dealing with job loss, unemployment, housing loss, and food insecurities.
This is having a physical impact on students from illness, inactivity, to fear of seeing a doctor because of the costs to just name a few things they looked at as an overview.
In 2021 the national emergency in child / adolescent mental health was declared by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey 2021 had some disturbing results.
In these findings, the rates of child / adolescent mental health concerns rose steadily between 2010 and 2020. The Covid Pandemic Revealed and exacerbated childhood mental health issues and there are soaring rates of anxiety, depression, trauma, loneliness and thoughts of suicide in children / adolescents.
Solano County has a higher suicide rate than the state average.
Rude Azevedo stated that she had not put a large block of text into the presentation but felt this information was important to share:
“During the Covid-19 Pandemic, students’ feelings of being connected to school were likely to be reduced by extensive school closures and transitions to virtual learning. Efforts to improve connectedness to schools, peers, and family are critical to protecting the mental health and well-being of youths, especially in the context of ongoing Pandemic-related stressors. Evidence from previous outbreaks suggests that the Pandemic might have long-term consequences for youth mental health and well-being and be associated with potential increases in youth depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which underscores the urgent need to address mental health needs among youths. ”
The Travis school district are dealing with these issues daily. They have nine social workers in the district and that is not enough to help.
“In fact, there aren’t enough psychologists, social workers across California to help deal with these issues,” she said.
Travis schools are watching and monitoring students for mental health crisis issues. So far this year they have 409 referrals to either School Social Worker, A Better Way or Military Family Life Counselor.
If they feel it is necessary they will refer students to community resources for additional support.
The number of students screened for Suicidal Ideation Screenings was 178.
Solano County operates a Mobile Crisis Unit for schools and a different Mobile Crisis Unit for the community at large. Since July 1, there have been 402 calls for both services combined.
“We have structures in place to respond,” Rude Azevedo. “But we need to do more.”
The district has a tiered system of evaluation and Responses ranging from Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) to referrals to the Mobile Crisis Unit to name a few.
The school is looking at beefing up its Responses with several plans in place including Tier 1 Social Emotional Learning (SEL) – all schools, Tier 1 activities for building social skills, Strategic Tier 2 SEL (Small group support), Grow Social Work Intern Program , Strengthened Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Parent University, Professional Development for Staff, Safety Week and Wellness Centers (more schools).
All activities and strategies are incorporated into 2022-2023 LCAP according to Rude Azevedo.
Students also reported that they were looking forward to school and were hopeful for their future (Middle School: 83%; High School: 86% and Alt Ed: 95%)
The full report can be viewed online at https://travis.agendaonline.net/public/Agency.aspx?PublicAgencyID=34.