The mental health of young people is one of five areas that need to be improved locally, according to a recently completed “Youth Health Assessment” done by the Delaware County Family Children First Council in collaboration with the Delaware General Health District.
The other priorities areas were environmental health, family support, obesity and substance abuse.
Kelsey Kuhlman, a health educator at the Delaware General Health District and one of the people involved in the administration of parts of the assessment, said these priorities appeared as trends throughout different types of surveys.
“It’s been really interesting to get a different perspective,” Kuhlman said. Kuhlman said parents typically are given surveys about their children but, during this assessment, the children themselves were surveyed. “We got to ask ‘what are the issues impacting you?’”
Mental health was one of the top priorities that came from the study, Kuhlman said.
The assessment identified that 22.9 percent of students at Delaware County high schools felt sad or hopeless. The assessment also indicated that 15.8 percent of Delaware County middle school students and 13.8 percent of high school students have seriously considered attempting suicide.
Kuhlman said that bullying and depression are linked and reported that 47.5 percent of middle school students and 23.5 percent of high school students reported being bullied on school property.
More challenging, Kuhlman said, is how much electronic communication contributes to bullying. The assessment said 27.4 percent of middle school students and 20.8 percent of high school students reported they were bullied electronically.
“There’s a disconnect between generations,” Kuhlman said. “It’s such a different type of bullying. It’s not that the parents don’t care; it’s just a foreign concept to them.”
Parents were also surveyed about bullying and 24.41 percent of middle school parents said their children had been bullied in the last six months, while 12.6 percent said they didn’t know. At the high school level, 10.29 percent of parents said their children had been bullied in the last six months and 13.53 percent said they did not know.
Kuhlman said this is because students are sometimes afraid to report bullies, even to their parents, because they are afraid it will just get worse.
Kuhlman said bullying is just one aspect of the mental health issues in the county, including childhood mental disorders, depression and stress.
The assessment states that the strategies to combat the mental health issues in the county include: implementing mental health training for school staff, educating students on the warning signs of depression; and providing anti-bullying school curricula in all grade levels.
More information about the survey can be found on the Delaware General Health District’s website or on YouTube by searching for Delaware General Health District.
Another part of the assessment was the health district’s Photovoice project in which students from local schools were given cameras and asked to document the good and the bad in Delaware County.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG