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Posted on: September 27, 2023

More Adolescents Experience Mental and Behavioral Health Challenges During the fall School Semester

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The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) recently released data through the Kansas Violent Death Reporting System (KSVDRS) details between 2016-2020, nearly 1 in 3 Kansas youth who died by suicide experienced behavior and mental health challenges in school at the time of death.

The CDC reports as many as 63 percent more child and adolescent mental and behavioral health emergency room visits occurred in the fall school semester compared to the summer break. Epidemiologists at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment collaborated with the CDC on the national report. 

“We are in the midst of a youth mental health crisis,” said Joan Duwve, M.D., MPH, State Health Officer. “Youth are resilient, but we need to better understand the stressors they encounter daily and apply evidence-based prevention, early identification, and intervention practices to improve our youth's mental health and wellness.” 

Key findings from the CDC 2018-2023 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and Kansas data:

  • Nationally, for youth aged 10-14 and 15-17 years, emergency department visits for depressive disorders, suicidal ideation or self-harm, and trauma- and stressor-related conditions were significantly more frequent in both the fall and spring semesters when compared to the previous summer semester.
  • Kansas trends indicate that for 10-14-year-olds, depressive disorder visits were significantly more frequent in the fall semester compared to the previous summer break each year from 2018-2022. Visits for 15-17-year-olds were significantly more frequent in the fall than in the summer for 2018-2021.
  • Kansas emergency department visits for suicidal ideation or self-harm were significantly more frequent in both the fall and spring periods compared to the previous summers across all years from fall 2018 to spring 2023.

Children and adolescents may face certain school-related stressors, such as:

  • Transitioning into a new school year or new school away from friends
  • Academic performance pressure and testing
  • Bullying and peer victimization that is not reported
  • Social anxiety that decreases confidence and worsens mental health

The Kansas State Department of Education developed a toolkit for prevention and response resources for schools to reduce barriers to mental health services for the youth.

How to promote mental and behavioral health

Childhood and adolescent mental and behavioral health are serious health priorities. Poor mental and behavioral health in youth are risk factors for drug use, violence, and other cognitive factors that last into adulthood. Positive childhood experiences combined with family, school and community involvement can reduce the current mental health crisis. Promotion can start by:

  • Building strong relationships with adults and friends at school and in the community.
  • Providing students with mental health services and resources at school and in the home environment.
  • Engaging school-aged youth in social and emotional learning programs.
  • Encourage parents in discussions about how to connect with their adolescents, communicate effectively, and monitor activities and behavior.

Where to Find More Information

To read the full MMWR report from the CDC, visit cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/72/wr/mm7238a3.htm?s_cid=mm7238a3_w.

For more information about childhood and adolescent behavioral health prevention resources, visit knowledgerepository.syndromicsurveillance.org/mental-and-behavioral-health-resources.

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