Mental health issues for some students in South San Francisco Unified School District | Local News

Student mental health has been impacted during the pandemic, causing spikes in anxiety and depression and difficulty returning to in-person classes for some students in the South San Francisco Unified School District, according to an end update. of year.

“In a global post-pandemic environment, our children are the raw nerve endings. They are the ones who express the collective grief and trauma that we experience as a community,” said Jane Chandler, senior director of the Office of Youth Mental Health Services at Urban Services YMCA.

Chandler outlined major mental health stressors for students at the district board meeting on Thursday, July 14, identifying social media, remote learning and a struggle to reacclimate to education. in person as key issues.

At the end of this past school year, YSB was providing direct services to 525 students on SSFUSD campuses for a total of 4,194 individual and group therapy sessions. These figures are up 20% compared to the previous year when 479 students were served for a total of 3,432 sessions.

The prevalence of certain mental health problems among these students is also on the rise. More than 70% of the 525 students suffer from depression and about 75% suffer from anxiety, two rates that exceed statistics from previous years, Chandler said. Alternatively, Chandler said drug addiction appears to be on the decline.

As for what contributes to the increased difficulty, Chandler said college students, especially girls, are inundated with posts online about their appearance, causing many to suffer from body dysmorphia.

“Social media is good in some ways, but it’s really, for young people, it’s really destructive,” Chandler said. “They’re just inundated with a ton of information and I think kids absorb that information and interpret it in different ways.”

The demographics of students seeking treatment haven’t changed much, Chandler noted, with the majority of students receiving treatment coming from Latino households and college students needing the most support.

But the population of Asian and Arab students seeking support has also increased this year. After speaking with clinicians, Chandler said it was difficult to determine the cause of the increase, but speculated that the lack of structure could have disrupted the confidence of students who had already done well at the school.

She also wondered if students from monolingual households had it harder during the pandemic because their parents were unable to provide stronger academic support. Clinicians at all grade levels said they worked with students who were having trouble worrying about their lessons or who were starting to self-harm in nonsuicidal ways.

But with regular counseling, Chandler said many students show signs of recovery. According to an end-of-year assessment, more than 30% of students exhibit improved social and emotional behaviors, nearly 20% have improved academic behavior, and more than 10% have shown improved academic performance and grades.

“Not only are schools essential players in a reformed mental health system that openly addresses healing, justice and structural racism, but they are also places of essential services for children,” Chandler said, theorizing that the increased demand for services is also due in part to returning students. to in-person instruction and to be closer to on-campus mental health support.

Trustees commended Chandler and the YSB staff for their work and voted unanimously to invest more than $600,000 in the program for the upcoming school year. Administrator Chialin Hsieh thanked Chandler for helping students feel better while administrator Patricia Murray said she believes mental health care should be as widely available as physical health care.

Board chairman John Baker said he was not surprised to hear that rates of depression and anxiety were on the rise among students. Many children have spent much of their formative years away from their peers and the classroom during the pandemic and have expressed their concerns in different settings, he said.

“We heard it from the students who showed up here. We heard it during our campus visits. A two-year disruption in the grand scheme of my life isn’t that much, but in a student’s life, it’s a big part of his life to be uncomfortable for so long” , Baker said. “That’s why you’re so important.”

It is not known how many students may still need additional support. Students are usually referred to a clinician by campus staff who usually know if a clinician has room in their workload to support another client. Students or their families can contact directly, Chandler noted.

There is still work to be done to publicize program offerings. Baker said students often express appreciation for having access to mental health services, but many are unaware they are available. He acknowledged that clinicians are likely overwhelmed, but also argued that the increased demand is meeting the growing needs of students. Campus staff are in the best position to recommend that students support given how often they interact, he added.

“We’re the people who have the most day-to-day contact with students outside of their families of course, so hopefully we’re there to recognize when they’re having trouble,” Baker said. “They are happy that the services exist, but we have to work together as a district and as BSJ to make sure you are there.

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