Since symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other emotional and mental health conditions are often first noticed at school, it makes sense that schools have the resources available in house to prevent problems from getting worse. But for many cash strapped districts, filling this need is daunting.
Last year the Buffalo Public Schools conducted a survey of roughly 5,500 students. They found that there have been a rise in self harming behaviors that require medical treatment, along with increases in violence, drug use, and heavy smoking. While alcohol use continues to decline, the pattern is clear from the most recent survey and a similar one that was conducted in 2011. The number of high school students reporting mental health problems is on the rise.
It is clear that interventions have to be in place 145 students reported hurting themselves bad enough to require hospitalization. “High-risk kids don’t go out after they get home to get services because their lives are in chaos,” said South Park High School Principal Theresa Schuta.
The district has expanded its school based mental health resources dramatically this year, with assistance from Say Yes Buffalo and Erie County. In 2011, the Buffalo Public Schools completed the district’s first Youth Risk Behavior Survey of middle and high school students. In December of that same year, Say Yes to Education partnered with Buffalo to provide access to tuition-free college to public school students, as well as provide other in-school health and family support services.
Those two events have resulted in important changes for Buffalo’s public schools. The additional resources for teens in trouble have made a huge difference in the ability of teens to get the help they need and recover.