In the wake of a survey of ninth-grade students, 21 percent of whom report depression and chronic sadness and 15 percent of whom admit to suicidal thoughts, the school district described its efforts to help students maintain their mental resilience in a statement issued this week.
The results come from the California Healthy Kids Survey, where 89 percent of the class of 221 Laguna Beach High School ninth-graders in 2014 answered a range of questions from school safety to drug use. The survey was released by the state Education Department last month, as reported earlier by the Indy.
School officials say the high percentage of students reporting mental and emotional health issues is being addressed on district campuses in a range of ways.
An early learning specialist, a marriage and family therapist, and a school readiness nurse are connecting with families to provide developmental screening in pre-school years, the district says. The district has hired a second elementary counselor and reassigned school psychologists to ensure that each school is staffed with a fulltime school psychologist and at least one counselor, says the statement.
To address emotional and mental health needs, the district last fall began Learning Link for parents with children 2 ½ to 5, a school readiness program that offered referrals to community resources and developmental screening at no cost.
Administrators are continuing to collaborate to address drug and alcohol prevention efforts with police and mental health professionals. This past year, the district says it has promoted opportunities for parents and their children to learn from psychology professionals such as Dr. Jerry Weichman, from the Hoag Neurosciences Institute in Newport Beach.
“When children’s social and emotional health is compromised, it can create significant challenges leading to failure in school, inability to maintain friendships, and negative feelings about themselves,” Irene White, director of special education and student services, says in a statement.