Frisco, Texas – In the face of a persistent decline in youth mental health, as illuminated by the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Frisco Independent School District (FISD) asserts that their students are equipped with ample resources for healthy coping mechanisms.
Stephanie Cook, the FISD’s esteemed Managing Director of Guidance and Counseling, highlighted an encouraging trend: a decrease in the overall incidences of depression and anxiety within their student body.
However, despite these promising signs, Cook raised a note of caution. She indicated a stark escalation in hospitalization rates among their pupils — a figure that has disturbingly doubled. The children grappling with these challenges, she noted, were doing so more acutely than in the pre-pandemic era.
Monitoring the mental health status of its students is a task the district approaches with great seriousness. They employ a system of anonymous surveys disseminated district-wide, according to Cook. Even though the survey is taken by a select few grades, the response rate astonishingly exceeds 95%.
The surveys are devised ingeniously, incorporating diagnostic criteria for both depression and anxiety. This intricate instrument then explores each of these criteria through a series of targeted questions interspersed throughout the questionnaire.
Cook believes that this approach provides a nuanced understanding of the mental health landscape among their students, thereby helping them to identify areas of concern and, subsequently, to tailor effective interventions.
According to Cook, an analysis of anonymous survey responses has been undertaken to identify possible cases of depression or anxiety among students. The results of this survey are employed to pinpoint specific grade levels or campuses with heightened incidences of these mental health concerns.
This vital data allows district staff to tailor lessons specifically to those regions exhibiting increased rates of students potentially dealing with depression or anxiety. By incorporating this information into the curriculum, they aim to equip students with coping strategies for managing overwhelming emotions, Cook further explained.
“We’ve created an infrastructure, but that infrastructure is also highly responsive to campus trends and needs,” Cook said, as reported by CI. “While we are similar across Frisco, we’re very unique on some of our campuses.”
Despite a 36th national ranking in suicide mortality rates in the year 2020, Texas has been grappling with a concerning uptick in such rates since the onset of the new millennium, per a revealing report disclosed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
The research underscored an alarming surge in suicide incidences within the 2000-2020 timeframe, particularly among adolescents aged 10-19. As per the study, the youth segment between 15-19 registered a disconcerting 39.1% hike, with rates leaping from 9.2 to 12.8 deaths per 100,000 individuals.
Moreover, while the suicide rates among the 10-14 demographic remained markedly low, the report noted an unexpected 35% ascent, transmuting the figures from 2 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
Cook, a researcher involved in the study, highlighted a disturbing shift in the behavioral patterns since the pandemic outbreak.
“Where there maybe had been suicidal ideation [before the pandemic], now there are attempts,” Cook said.
On a brighter note, Cook drew attention to the robust mental health resources that have been developed in recent years to assist students in distress. He elucidated, for instance, how students can now conveniently scan a QR code to secure an immediate appointment with the school counselor. Equally commendable is the facility to swiftly report dubious or menacing behavior on social media through a dedicated application, Cook added.
“Even though it’s about school safety, it is about wellness and mental health,” Cook said.
The district has also embarked on strategic collaborations with bodies such as Frisco Threads, facilitating access to clothing or gift cards that students might otherwise struggle to acquire, said Korinna Kirchhoff, the Assistant Director of Communications at FISD.
“We’re thankful for the community members, the community businesses, the community that’s willing to support our students and our teachers and our campuses,” Kirchhoff said.
Mayor Jeff Cheney, taking a step towards acknowledging the need for mental health awareness, formally declared May as Frisco’s official Mental Health Awareness Month during a City Council meeting held on May 16. Cheney emphasized the indispensable role of community cohesion in addressing mental health challenges.
“Each citizen and local business, school, government agent, health care provider and faith-based organization shares the burden of mental health concerns and has a responsibility to promote mental wellness recovery and support prevention efforts,” Cheney said at the meeting.
More information about FISD’s guidance and counseling services can be found here.