Health leaders warn mental health challenges in kids worsen during fall semester

FILE(Live 5)
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 2:44 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Health leaders in Kansas and around the nation are warning parents that mental and behavioral health challenges in children and teens are exacerbated during the fall school semester.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says recently released data from the Kansas Violent Death Reporting System found nearly 1 in 3 Kansas children who have died by suicide experienced behavior and mental health challenges in school at the time of their death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that as many as 63% more child and adolescent mental and behavioral health emergency room visits were logged during the fall school semester compared to the summer break. Kansas health leaders collaborated with the CDC for the 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.”

Nationally, the CDC found for those aged 10 - 17, emergency room 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 than the summer semester.

The KDHE noted that Kansas trends echo the national trend. Kansas emergency department visits for suicidal ideation or self-harm were significantly more frequent in both the fall and spring semesters compared to the summer between 2018 and 2023.

Health officials indicated that children and teens can face certain school-related stressors like:

  • 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

KDHE said the Kansas State Department of Education has developed a toolkit for prevention and response resources for schools to reduce barriers to services.

Health leaders said childhood and teenage mental and behavioral health are serious health priorities. Poor mental and behavioral health in youth are risk factors for drug use, violence and more. Positive experiences combined with family, school and community involvement can reduce the current health crisis. Kansans 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.

To read the full CDC report, click HERE.

For more information about behavioral health prevention resources, click HERE.