The Duffy Blog

Mental & emotional wellness for today's youth & families

School Safety & Mental Health: 3 Considerations for Parents & School Personnel

School Safety & Mental Health: 3 Considerations for Parents & School Personnel

School safety has been a hot topic among parents, politicians, school personnel, and mental health professionals.

Much of the focus is placed on violence, which is important, but what about the statistics that show an extremely concerning state of decay among our youth?

In a previous post, we discussed how more children and adolescents are in therapy for various issues, the most common being pervasive anxiety and depression. School shootings and other traumatic events have shaken our country’s students to the core but what has been going on the past few years that has led to the current crisis with our youth?

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America released some alarming statistics regarding mental health and our youth:

  • Since 2010, clinical depression among adolescents is up more than 33%.
  • Suicide attempts are up more than 23% and successful suicide increased by more than 31%.

These jaw-dropping statistics are not limited to a particular group of the population.

Teenagers from every race, economic background, and ethnicity are at risk.

What else has increased?

We have talked about the impact social media and access to the web has on children and adolescents.

Statistics paint an even darker picture:

  • Since 2010, cell phone ownership and online access (social media, gaming, dark web) have increased by a whopping 73%.
  • Per day, adolescents spend, on average, between 4 and 5 hours of time online.
  • Further research shows a correlation between time spent online (more than 5 hours/day) and suicidal risk factors (suicidal thoughts, plans, attempts).

In short, time spent online is correlated with severe depressive symptoms including suicidal risk factors.

With so much time dedicated to the being online, what do teenagers lose?

Sleep is the key to everything.

If you were to look through the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), you would find that sleeping issues are associated with most mental health problems.

If you were to talk to primary care physicians, you would learn that sleep time and quality are correlated with normal physical development.

Many teenagers (especially in the Northern Virginia area) report getting between 4-6 hours of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children and teenagers should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

In addition to sleep, children and adolescents who spend a significant amount of time “plugged in” lose social involvement.

Among teenagers, social media is believed to be adequate for social interaction with others.

Studies, however, have found something different:

Social isolation, increase in depression and anxiety, and poor parental involvement increased with children and adolescents that spend most of their time online.

What should be done?

  1. Parents must be more involved with their kids’ lives.
    Know who they are spending time with and what they are doing online. Many parents do not know what their kids are doing and may only learn about it if their kid gets involved in something that leads to consequences. Involved parents also need to be in contact with school personnel or any other adult involved in their kid’s life. Parents also must encourage more involvement in sports, extracurricular activities, or employment for their kids. Children and adolescents that are more involved have higher reported self-esteem, improved emotional development, and better social skills than those who are not.
  2. Know the warning signs.
    Parents and school personnel that are well trained in the common symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety get help for their kids. Children and adolescents suffering from depression or pervasive anxiety are less likely to seek treatment. Children and adolescents whose parents seek treatment for them are less likely to experience emotional development delays and behavioral problems and more likely to respond well to talk therapy.
  3. Be familiar with community resources.
    Parents, healthcare providers, and school personnel who are familiar with the community resources are more likely to respond to warning signs in children and adolescents and get the help that they need. There are various barriers to getting help but with vast amount of resources available (private providers, community services board, and local programs), our youth will get the help they need in a timely fashion.

Have questions or concerns about school safety and mental health issues?

Please share your questions or concerns in our comments below.

Additional (and related) Duffy posts for your reading pleasure:

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