News

Guest opinion: Rise in youth suicide needs joint effort from educators, health providers

Assemblyman Marc Berman's bill would help support youth health post-pandemic

The Mountain View High School cafeteria is empty during the last week of school on June 2, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Youth in California are struggling with trauma, anxiety and isolation brought about by distance learning, the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread economic distress falling most heavily on vulnerable and disenfranchised communities. Both educators and health care providers see a crisis, but often feel helpless to address it.

Emergency rooms and crisis hotlines reported an uptick in youth suicide ideation and attempts in the fall, and many of the stressors leading to this increase have continued into 2021. The California Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission released findings in October spotlighting the urgent need for statewide support for school-based mental health services amid — and beyond — the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commission report, "Every Young Heart and Mind: Schools as Centers of Wellness," found that 1 in 6 high school students report having considered suicide in the past year, and that 1 in 3 high school students report feeling chronically sad and hopeless. The report urges the state to move quickly to assist schools in becoming "wellness centers" for students.

School-based health centers — small, full-service health clinics on school campuses — are one such model and are already responding to the current crises by providing health and mental health services to young people via phone, telehealth and social media. School-based health providers are regularly checking in to ensure that students are not despairing and that they know of resources if they or their friends feel like they cannot cope.

School health providers — most of whom are working remotely from other clinic sites or home — tell us they are seeing dramatically more suicidal ideation than in years past, and that it is harder to monitor symptoms or identify risks when youth are not physically present in school every day.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

For example, one mother in Fresno had to bring her son to his school's health center after his friend died by suicide. The mother said her son had been distant and did not want to talk about what had happened. When the clinic evaluated him, they realized he was at grave risk and they were able to refer him to a behavioral health specialist right away. If it had not been for the student's mother bringing him in, the risk may have gone unnoticed by school and health center staff.

With all the challenges youth are facing, having staff trained to pick up these nuances and get children and teens the care that they need should not be a luxury. Yet, California only has 293 school-based health centers for more than 10,000 public schools. Our state has invested heavily in school mental health in the last two decades, and we are encouraged by additional significant investments proposed in the governor's budget for 2021-22.

The California School-Based Health Alliance is partnering with children's advocates from around the state to co-sponsor Assembly Bill 563, introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman, a Democrat from Menlo Park, and Assemblymember James Ramos, a Democrat from Highland, that would create an Office of School-Based Health Programs in the California Department of Education. If passed, this legislation would ensure better coordination between siloed health and education departments to support youth through this storm and others to come.

Much more is needed, including many more school-based health centers for students and communities under greatest stress. But AB 563 and the measures introduced by Gov. Gavin Newsom are part of a good start. California School-Based Health Alliance, our partners, youth, schools and families will continue to build support for the health and well-being of California youth.

Tracy Mendez is the executive director of California School-Based Health Alliance and can be reached at [email protected] This piece was first published by CalMatters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture that works with media partners throughout the state, including The Almanac.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Guest opinion: Rise in youth suicide needs joint effort from educators, health providers

Assemblyman Marc Berman's bill would help support youth health post-pandemic

by / CalMatters

Uploaded: Sat, Apr 3, 2021, 11:09 am

Youth in California are struggling with trauma, anxiety and isolation brought about by distance learning, the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread economic distress falling most heavily on vulnerable and disenfranchised communities. Both educators and health care providers see a crisis, but often feel helpless to address it.

Emergency rooms and crisis hotlines reported an uptick in youth suicide ideation and attempts in the fall, and many of the stressors leading to this increase have continued into 2021. The California Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission released findings in October spotlighting the urgent need for statewide support for school-based mental health services amid — and beyond — the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commission report, "Every Young Heart and Mind: Schools as Centers of Wellness," found that 1 in 6 high school students report having considered suicide in the past year, and that 1 in 3 high school students report feeling chronically sad and hopeless. The report urges the state to move quickly to assist schools in becoming "wellness centers" for students.

School-based health centers — small, full-service health clinics on school campuses — are one such model and are already responding to the current crises by providing health and mental health services to young people via phone, telehealth and social media. School-based health providers are regularly checking in to ensure that students are not despairing and that they know of resources if they or their friends feel like they cannot cope.

School health providers — most of whom are working remotely from other clinic sites or home — tell us they are seeing dramatically more suicidal ideation than in years past, and that it is harder to monitor symptoms or identify risks when youth are not physically present in school every day.

For example, one mother in Fresno had to bring her son to his school's health center after his friend died by suicide. The mother said her son had been distant and did not want to talk about what had happened. When the clinic evaluated him, they realized he was at grave risk and they were able to refer him to a behavioral health specialist right away. If it had not been for the student's mother bringing him in, the risk may have gone unnoticed by school and health center staff.

With all the challenges youth are facing, having staff trained to pick up these nuances and get children and teens the care that they need should not be a luxury. Yet, California only has 293 school-based health centers for more than 10,000 public schools. Our state has invested heavily in school mental health in the last two decades, and we are encouraged by additional significant investments proposed in the governor's budget for 2021-22.

The California School-Based Health Alliance is partnering with children's advocates from around the state to co-sponsor Assembly Bill 563, introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman, a Democrat from Menlo Park, and Assemblymember James Ramos, a Democrat from Highland, that would create an Office of School-Based Health Programs in the California Department of Education. If passed, this legislation would ensure better coordination between siloed health and education departments to support youth through this storm and others to come.

Much more is needed, including many more school-based health centers for students and communities under greatest stress. But AB 563 and the measures introduced by Gov. Gavin Newsom are part of a good start. California School-Based Health Alliance, our partners, youth, schools and families will continue to build support for the health and well-being of California youth.

Tracy Mendez is the executive director of California School-Based Health Alliance and can be reached at [email protected] This piece was first published by CalMatters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture that works with media partners throughout the state, including The Almanac.

Comments

Mountain View Resident
Registered user
North Whisman
on Apr 6, 2021 at 10:49 am
Mountain View Resident, North Whisman
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2021 at 10:49 am

I think that this article is very informative about the conditions that so many young people are experiencing both at the moment due to the virus as well as in general with their lives and seeking to find both peace of heart and mind in our often distant and lonely world of the present and I think that increasing the number of the school-based mental health wellness centers is a very good means to begin to assist the many youth suffering with depression and other illnesses yet as Mother Teresa noted feeling unloved and alone and unwanted is the greatest disease of all. We must acknowledge that so many children and young adults as well as adults and the elderly feel just this sense of loneliness and meaningless in their own lives and so lose hope which is the most important part of our mental well-being and guides us through the difficult moments in our lives. I think we need to recognize that we exist through our relationships and friendships and authentic love and caring of our families and that we need to find a means to transcend the emptiness of the computer and culture and find true friendship and love and meaning in our common humanity and our bonds of caring for each other once again. (Thank you for reading such a long and wordy note.),


Sam
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2021 at 5:01 pm
Sam, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2021 at 5:01 pm

Unnecessary school closures cause a mental health crisis so the solution is to give schools money to mitigate the crisis. Typical California insanity.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Apr 6, 2021 at 5:18 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2021 at 5:18 pm

"unnecessary school closures" [citation needed]


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.