New data highlights pupils’ mental health issues, say staff at Shrewsbury school

New survey data sparked discussions earlier this month about ongoing mental health issues at Oak Middle School and Shrewsbury High School. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

SHREWSBURY – Stress and anxiety continue to be top issues for students at Oak Middle School and Shrewsbury Secondary School, according to the results of a recently released survey.

Shrewsbury Director of Nursing Noelle Freeman presented the data to the school committee on May 4.

That, in turn, came months after Superintendent Joseph Sawyer reported in January that at least 19 students had been hospitalized with mental health crises so far in the current school year.

“When we returned to school in the fall, we could not have anticipated the level of distress that some of our students are currently experiencing,” Freeman said later at a March 30 school committee meeting. .

At this March 30 meeting, district staff reported that a total of 73 students were referred for mental health reasons to the Mental Health Emergency, Mobile Youth Crisis, or ER.

In total, Freeman said there has been a “marked increase” in the number of students with mental health issues since the start of the school year.

This includes what officials described in March as “intense” feelings of stress and anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal and murderous thoughts.

Survey results highlight concerns

According to regional youth survey results presented more recently and collected from December 2021, 67% of SHS students surveyed said their mental health was “not good” at least sometimes during the pandemic.

At Oak, 40% of students said they had experienced mental health issues in the past 30 days.

The survey further indicated that 15% of Oak students were seriously considering suicide, while 8% had a suicide plan and 3% had attempted suicide. At Oak, the number of students reporting non-suicidal self-harm nearly doubled from 7% in 2019 to 13% in 2021.

“We’re definitely seeing that play out in the number of students being seen by nurses and mental health professionals in buildings for cutting injuries,” Freeman said.

At SHS, 38% of students surveyed said they had felt sad or hopeless in the past 12 months, up from 27% in 2019.

The data was then disaggregated by race and sexual orientation, with Freeman saying the results indicate that students of color and students who identify as LGBTQ+ were at higher risk for anxiety, depression, suicide and other mental health problems.

‘His OKAY for do not be OKAY’

In March, district staff called for increased awareness and continued discussions with students and families about mental health.

They also recommended adding mental and behavioral staff and expanding Shrewsbury’s Level 1 Social and Emotional Learning curriculum, while supporting and expanding digital media education efforts, including monitoring of children’s use of social media, among others.

The school committee in May later said that this survey supported the need for additional staff members who are requested in the budget.

Assistant Director of Special Education and Student Personnel Services, Meghan Bartlett, said the district should also partner with families and community members to keep children safe.

“We need to have conversations with our children and let them know that there are steps to manage their mental health,” Bartlett said.

She encouraged families to talk to their students and acknowledge their feelings. Watch their social media, she says.

She advocated for community members to seek out treatment providers and place their names on waiting lists.

“It’s OK not to be OK,” Bartlett said.

A full presentation of this mental health data can be viewed at the school committee meeting on May 4:

EDITOR REMARK: the shrewsbury Audience Schools to have share Resources for those do the experience a mental health emergency. Regardingsources include Youth Portable Crisis Intervention worcester (866-549- 2142), Emergency Mental Health Services (508-334-3562), the N / Anational Suicide Prevention safety rope (800-273-8255) and the Crisis Text Double (text RESIDENCE for 741741).


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