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High school students’ mental health disproportionally impacted by pandemic

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show high school students have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and even before the pandemic, their mental health has been steadily declining.

The CDC reports that 37% of high school-aged children experienced poor mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. Forty-four percent reported they felt persistently sad or hopeless. America's youths are experiencing several common challenges leading to the decline in mental health, according to the study: emotional abuse by a parent or adult, physical abuse by a parent or adult and a parent or adult losing their job.

CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry said one way to help students through this tough spot is by surrounding them with a support system.

“These data echo a cry for help,” said Houry. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental well-being."

Brent Ghan with the Missouri School Boards' Association said school boards, districts and educators should do what they can to protect students' mental health.

"Aside from being at home, kids spend most of their time at school and so it's really important that schools are a safe and secure environment for our students and so they can focus on learning while they're at school," Ghan said. "And so I think that's it's important for teachers to be able to recognize the signs of mental health need in a student and then to direct that student to the appropriate resources."

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is working with the Missouri Institute of Mental Health to offer free mental health training to educators across the state known as Youth Mental Health First Aid. The program provides skills and tools to identify mental health and substance abuse problems.

“Those who receive this first aid training report an increased ability to recognize signs and symptoms of a mental health challenge and increased confidence in their ability to help and offer the appropriate support," said Rachel Taube, project director for Mental Health First Aid.

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.

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