Walk With Us

Walk With Us

Join the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and it’s Delaware Chapter for the annual ‘Out of the Darkness Walk. Raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention. Funds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and its Delaware Chapter.

  • September 22 – Wilmington Walk at Delcastle Recreational Park. Register Here
  • October 19 – Milford Walk at Bicentennial Park. Register Here
Students cite mental health struggles as they opt out of college

Students cite mental health struggles as they opt out of college

Especially students from LGBTQ+ and marginalized communities

A new survey shows one-third of students cite mental health concerns for dropping out of college, or never going.

What creates a safe, supportive learning environment

What creates a safe, supportive learning environment

Want to make sure your child’s school is safe? These are the questions parents should ask.

With gunfire in schools at an all-time high, though still rare, back-to-school season begins this year with many parents more concerned than ever about school safety.

While many schools and states have turned to physical safety measures such as extra police presence and metal detectors, others rely on social-emotional learning to improve school climate.

“You have these two genres – the zero-tolerance policies and making each school look like a little prison on one side. Ironically, you have – at the same time – the opposite vision of making school’s a more loving and caring and supportive place,” said Ron Avi Astor, a professor of social work and education at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He noted that schools are increasingly leaning on both methods simultaneously to address school safety – a route he said might not work.

“Are both of these views compatible? Can (students) feel like they belong … if their school is doing both? We don’t know for sure,” Astor said. “These are really, in some ways, scary times in our country, because it’s not a simple list that parents should think about. They have to balance all these issues.”

Experts, educators and advocates offered USA TODAY some of the questions parents should consider when assessing the safety of their children’s schools.

What is social-emotional learning?

School climate, which refers to students’ feelings of acceptance, appreciation and value in their school, is the most important factor for maintaining safety, said Aaron Kupchick, professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware.

To maintain a positive school climate, experts stress the importance of teaching social emotional learning (SEL) – which prioritizes the development of social and emotional skills in students, including self-awareness, empathy and resilience. Over the past few years, SEL has been linked to critical race theory, and conservatives have said the practice as a form of “woke indoctrination.”

SEL at school is crucial for student safety and success, said Heather Reynolds, a professor of teacher education at State University New York, Empire State University.

“It impacts not only safety, but academics. It improves mental health and students feel safer. They’re more engaged, more likely to come to school and have a positive perception of school.”
Read full article  |   Itzel Luna  |   Cincinnati Enquirer
Preventing more overdoses among kids

Preventing more overdoses among kids

Why Delaware believes schools, parents are key to preventing more overdoses among kids

Slipping grades. Missed classes. Inexplicable vomiting and nausea. A sudden stoppage in brushing teeth.

All of these are potential signs of addiction among young people — signs that Delaware state officials urged parents to be on the lookout for as fatal youth overdoses continue to rise.

While recent survey results show lower self-reported drug use rates among high school students in Delaware, experts said a decreased concern about using prescription drugs without a prescription shows the need for greater intervention and education, particularly in schools.

“Students spend an average of 1,000 hours each year in school, so we know that schools need to be an active partner in helping our kids and their families navigate the changing landscape of substance abuse,” said Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Holodick at a community briefing Friday.

The new data comes from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is taken every other year by a random representative sample of students enrolled in district, charter and “alternative” schools in Delaware, as well as by many students nationwide. The anonymous survey asks about everything from seatbelt usage to physical activity and is analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the Delaware students surveyed, 6% said they’d taken prescription pain medicine without a doctor’s prescription or differently than how a doctor told them to use it in the past month, and only 58% think their friends think using prescription drugs without a prescription is very wrong.

“Knowing about risks is crucial to supporting school community programs, communication campaigns and other prevention efforts,” Brittingham said.

Fentanyl remains huge problem in Delaware

One of the main risks — and one of the primary causes of overdoses among all age groups — is the presence of fentanyl in drugs, often unbeknownst to the user. The highly potent synthetic drug has become increasingly common in counterfeit prescription pills, which the Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows are more commonly used than opioids like heroin by young people.

Like adults, fatal overdose deaths among youth have increased dramatically in recent years, with most involving opioids like fentanyl.

OVERDOSE DEATHS:A record 447 Delawareans died of overdoses. What we learned about them, their deaths.

Median monthly overdose deaths rose by 109% between 2019 and 2021 for youth between the ages of 10 and 19, according to the CDC, and youth deaths involving fentanyl rose by 182% during that same time period.

Division of Public Health Chief Physician Dr. Michael Coletta explained that many younger people who unintentionally overdose used what they believed to be prescription pills like Xanax or Oxycontin, not realizing that the pills are laced with fentanyl.

Colette said the state has been “meeting kids where they’re at” through their social media campaign, which started in late 2022 with the goal of educating young people about the possible presence of fentanyl in pills they may buy online — sometimes on that same social media platform.

Read Full Article |  Delaware Online

Social Media Affecting Your Child’s Mental Health?

Social Media Affecting Your Child’s Mental Health?

U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health

U.S. Surgeon General 's Advisory: Social Media and Youth Mental Health

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has issued an advisory about social media’s impact on youth mental health. It notes that while social media can provide benefits for some children and youth, there is a growing body of research about potential harms social media use poses.

Children and adolescents on social media are commonly exposed to extreme, inappropriate, and harmful content and frequent social media use can contribute to poor mental health, including depression and anxiety. The advisory outlines action steps that policymakers, technology companies, researchers, and families can take to mitigate the risk of harm and make social media safer and healthier for children and youth.

OJJDP, in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), provides resources to keep youth safe online, including NCMEC’s NetSmartz program.

In addition, OJJDP’s mentoring programs support youth mental health and its National Mentoring Resource Center is dedicated to enhancing mentoring practices that support positive youth outcomes.

Download the Advisory

DGS’s and CEB New Partnership

DGS’s and CEB New Partnership

We’d like to thank all who came out to celebrate our partnership (and new space) at the Community Building. This new collaboration only strengthens our ability to provide quality behavioral health services for our Delaware youth and their families.
Experts weigh in on best ways to protect kids from cyberbullying

Experts weigh in on best ways to protect kids from cyberbullying

recent survey by the RCMP found that 31% of Canadian youth say they have been cyberbullied before. That’s an increase of 17%, which can be blamed on the pandemic, a time in which kids’ screen time soared.

With kids back to school, cyberbullying will become a hot topic once again.

You can’t make a mean person less awful so how can parents, teachers and other concerned adults keep their children safe?

We spoke with experts Dr. Howard Pratt, a psychiatrist and behavioral health medical director at Community Health of South Florida Inc., and Dr. Sara Goldstein, a professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Delaware, who specializes in bullying during childhood and adolescence.

“Because so much of what we do is online, there’s always that space available for someone to message someone negatively online or in a public space and bully another person,” Dr. Pratt tells the Toronto Sun.

“It’s really not a matter of staying safe but rather how to say safer,” he explains. “So, if there is a platform or space online that you learn is a place where bullying is taking place and affecting your child, then much in the same way you do when you learn there is a geographic location where crimes take place, you know you don’t want your kid there and you don’t let them go there.”

That’s easier said than done since parents and teachers can’t protect kids at all times. But adults can watch out for signs. Like bullying, the signs of cyberbullying are similar.

“Often there is a sense of embarrassment by the victim and the kid will try to hide that the bullying is going on,” Dr. Pratt says. “You may notice signs of withdrawal, symptoms of depression and anxiety despite the source coming from someone who is not physically present in your child’s life.”

Depending on the situation — and every situation is different — there are plans that can be implemented for an effective intervention.

“If the bullying is happening on a particular platform, you have to consider risk versus reward when it comes to eliminating it,” suggests Pratt, but warns that parents have to be very sensitive when making these decisions.

“When kids are bullied, whether the bully is someone they know or is a complete stranger, it calls into question so many things for that child,” he explains.

“The kid may ask themself, ‘Is this the way the world is?’ ‘Is this normal?’ ‘What’s wrong with me that this is happening?’

“So, you want to minimize exposure to bullying whether it’s coming from someone they actually know, or whether it’s coming from a complete stranger.”

As far as protecting kids as best as possible, Dr. Goldstein suggests setting clear guidelines and parameters for online behaviour, limiting time online access to devices, and maintaining positive, open relationships with them.

“When kids feel that they can open up to the important adults in their lives, they are more likely to share with them when something challenging is happening,” she says.

“You can never really be 100 per cent safe from cyberbullying,” admits Dr. Pratt. “Bad people are out there who will say and do bad things and we don’t have control of them.”

He suggests getting spyware to find out what your children are up to online.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says. “You want to know who is communicating with your kids, what they are saying, and most critically, discern the intent behind that messaging, which a child may not be able to fully grasp.”

Full Article HERE  |  Denette Wilford    Publishing date: Sep 10, 2022

 

Mental health is key to a child’s overall health

Mental health is key to a child’s overall health

— 𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗰𝗶𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗮𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗖𝗢𝗩𝗜𝗗-𝟭𝟵  – 𝗢𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗻

As parents or guardians, we tend to react quickly when our children’s physical health is in question. If children show physical symptoms, get injured, or express they don’t feel right, we immediately ask questions and seek medical guidance and care. Parents and guardians are also pros at prevention — making sure children get vaccines and wellness exams and keeping an eye out for anything unusual that may indicate they are sick or hurt. That same level of attention and action for prevention and treatment is critical to supporting children’s mental health.

Many children will experience a mental health and/or substance use problem before age 18. In a survey of 80,000 youth around the world, 1 in 4 reported depressive symptoms and 1 in 5 experienced anxiety symptoms. Those rates are double what they were before the pandemic and we also know that more children have experienced trauma in response to COVID-19. The good news is that there are things that caregivers can do to help promote children’s mental wellbeing. Children thrive in the presence of thriving adults who support them in co-regulation and processing their emotions. When a child has an emotionally healthy, caring adult in their life, it can help buffer against stress and help them to navigate experiences with resilience.

Anyone can be that adult for a child and make a real difference in their life. How? One of the easiest ways is for caregivers to talk with the children in their care — naturally, regularly, and intentionally as a part of daily life. Ask how they are feeling in general and about specific situations, like an upcoming social gathering or recent world event. These talks can take place in the car, standing in line, or at the dinner table. Be an active listener and show interest in all aspects of their life and the things that matter to them. And don’t hesitate to talk with them if you are concerned about their mental health and ask whether they are thinking about or planning suicide. If you are concerned about a child in crisis, you should call the 24/7 Child Crisis Line, also known as Mobile Resource Stabilization Service, at 1-800-969-HELP (4357).

In addition to a caring adult, research shows that prevention and treatment programs do work and there are resources available to help children and their families through the Delaware Children’s Department Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services and the Department of Education and local schools.

The Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services provides free summer prevention programs for children and teens that promote resilience, develop positive relationships with peers and adults and build life skills.  Families and community members can contact the division’s Prevention Helpline to learn about these services by calling (302) 633-2680, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by email at PBHS_Prevention_Inquiries@delaware.gov. You can click here to see the current catalogue of programs. You can also visit DPBHS’ website to learn more about covered treatment services.

Delaware schools support children through wellness promotion, monitoring for early warning signs, and screening for risks. Students may access group and individualized supports for building social and emotional skills. The state’s Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Wellbeing Plan provides infrastructure for this response system, integrating the innovations from Project DelAWARE — designed to reduce the stigma associated with mental health access — and Project THRIVE — which contracts directly with mental health provider organizations to offer trauma-specific interventions for ALL uninsured and under-insured  students, regardless of whether they attend public or private schools demonstration project funded by the US Department of Education. Both of these programs have increased mental health equity for children and youth across our state.  Students or parents and caregivers on their behalf can learn more by calling 211 or texting their zip code to 898-211.

Delaware Online Mark Holodick and Josette Manning – Special to the USA TODAY Network

Mark Holodick is Secretary of Education. Josette Manning is Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families. 

Student mental health crisis much vaster

Student mental health crisis much vaster

The crisis of student mental health is much vaster than we realize

 

The change was gradual. At first, Riana Alexander was always tired. Then she began missing classes. She had been an honors student at her Arizona high school, just outside Phoenix. But last winter, after the isolation of remote learning, then the overload of a full-on return to school, her grades were slipping. She wasn’t eating a lot. She avoided friends.

Her worried mother searched for mental health treatment. Finally, in the spring, a three-day-a-week intensive program for depression helped the teenager steady herself and “want to get better,” Alexander said. Then, as she was finding her way, a girl at her school took her own life. Then a teen elsewhere in the district did the same. Then another.

“It just broke my heart that there were three different people who were going through what I was, and they never got the chance to heal,” said Alexander, 17, now a high school senior.

Riana Alexander, a 17-year-old organizer with Arizona Students for Mental Health, was struggling with her mental health last winter. (Caitlin O’Hara for The Washington Post)

After that devastating stretch in May, families and classmates in the Chandler Unified School District mourned the three 15-year-olds. They would enjoy no more summer vacations, no birthdays or graduations. The losses ignited a debate about what schools should be doing to support students in despair.

Nationally, adolescent depression and anxiety — already at crisis levels before the pandemic — have surged amid the isolation, disruption and hardship of covid-19. Even as federal coronavirus relief money has helped schools step up their efforts to aid students, they also have come up short. It’s unclear how much money is going to mental health, how long such efforts will last or if they truly reach those who struggle most.

“The need is real, the need is dire,” said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, who recalled hearing just that day from the district’s mental health partners that calls about suicidal thoughts had quadrupled. “We’re living through historically unprecedented times,” he said.

More than 75 percent of schools surveyed in spring said their teachers and staff have voiced concerns about student depression, anxiety and trauma, according to federal data. Nearly as many schools cited a jump in the number of students seeking mental health services.

But mental health is not the only pandemic priority. Schools are spending vast sums of their coronavirus relief money on ventilation upgrades, expanded summer learning, after-school programs, tutors and academic specialists.

The federal spending plans of 5,000 school districts nationally show that more than one-third intend to bring new mental health professionals into schools, and about 30 percent plan to fund social-emotional learning efforts, according to an analysis by FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.

“This is an incredible increase in the amount of money being spent and the number of districts pursuing it,” Phyllis Jordan, associate director of FutureEd said. But it is still, advocates say, not nearly enough.

“We simply don’t have enough people in our profession to meet the need.”

— Kelsey Theis, president of the Texas Association of School Psychologists

In many areas, even when money is in hand, hiring is not easy. As this school year opened, nearly 20 percent of schools reported vacancies in mental health positions, according to federal data. Schools often said they employed too few staff to manage the caseload but also complained about difficulties finding licensed providers, the data showed.

“We simply don’t have enough people in our profession to meet the need,” said Kelsey Theis, president of the Texas Association of School Psychologists. When families seek private therapists, “sometimes there’s a wait list of months and months before they get help,” she said.

In Maine, waiting lists grew so long last year that school counselor Tara Kierstead began looking out of state for therapists who had openings — a solution that was not practical for many families.

“It was the hardest I’ve ever had to work to get resources to people,” Kierstead said. “I know some kids who were never seen.”

Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy called out the “devastating” effects of the pandemic on youth mental health in a public advisory last December. Earlier that year, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association together declared “a national state of emergency” in children’s mental health. They pointed out that young people of color were especially affected and linked the struggle for racial justice to the worsening crisis.

A year later, this October, they sounded the alarm again. Things are not getting better.

A deepening crisis

Not long after the pandemic started, researchers began to document declines in child and adolescent mental health. The numbers are stark.

Hospital emergency room visits spiked for suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From February to March 2021, the number jumped by 51 percent compared with the same period during 2019. For boys, the increase was 4 percent. Early research from MIT suggested the suicide rate for people aged 10 to 19 increased in 2020, compared with before the pandemic. More recently, CDC provisional data for 2021 showed an increase in the national rate from 2020 to 2021, especially for people ages 15 to 24.

In other research, the CDC found nearly 45 percent of high school students were so persistently sad or hopeless in 2021 they were unable to engage in regular activities. Almost 1 in 5 seriously considered suicide, and 9 percent of the teenagers surveyed by the CDC tried to take their lives during the previous 12 months. A substantially larger percentage of gay, lesbian, bisexual, other and questioning students reported a suicide attempt.

Family upheaval, meanwhile, was widespread, particularly in the early pandemic: Nearly 30 percent of students said an adult in their home had lost a job, and 24 percent said they went hungry for a lack of food.

There are no directly comparable pre-pandemic studies, but Kathleen Ethier, the CDC’s director of the division of adolescent and school health, said student well-being is significantly better for teens who report feeling connected to their schools — a problem for a population that, nationwide, was kept out of them for so long.

“There is 20 years of research showing that it not only has an impact on how young people do while they’re adolescents, but it has 20-year impacts on all kinds of measures of health,” including emotional well-being, suicidality and substance use, she said.

It also left many children grieving. More than 230,000 U.S. students under 18 are believed to be mourning the ultimate loss: the death of a parent or primary caregiver in a pandemic-related loss, according to research by the CDC, Imperial College London, Harvard University, Oxford University and the University of Cape Town. In the United States, children of color were hit the hardest, another study found. It estimated that the loss for Black and Hispanic children was nearly twice the rate for White children.

Too much need, too little help

In Maryland, Julia Horton, 16, recalls that, as her struggles worsened last year, she fell asleep in class a lot and did not turn in work; her grades dropped. Looking back, she said, “it is very obvious it was a cry for help.” Some teachers were compassionate, but others less so. “A lot of teachers talk about understanding mental illness, but they don’t act upon it,” she said.

Her school in suburban Montgomery County had two mental health professionals within its wellness center, county officials said, but Horton — like many students — had no idea. She talked to a counselor she liked about getting more time for assignments but it did not help. Her mother ultimately found her an excellent therapist to help Horton with her depression and anxiety, but she wonders about other teens who may not be as fortunate.

Montgomery County school officials said they inform students about mental health services through community messages, their website, student forums and advisory period lessons — though school board member Lynne Harris said messaging should be more robust and focused on platforms students use most.

In Philadelphia, Mikayla Jones, then 15, took care of her father in spring 2020 when he caught covid-19 and she had little contact with teachers and friends during remote learning. She wanted to talk to a therapist, but her mother couldn’t find one with an opening and she’d never heard of any mental health specialist at school. “I feel like this should not be something that’s possible,” she said. Now a 17-year-old senior, Jones is starting a club to advocate for mental health support across Philadelphia’s schools. “All youth deserve someone to be there for them.”

Philadelphia officials said counselors were meeting with students virtually or in person during the pandemic to assess their needs and help decide next steps. Still, the high school senior never found a therapist. The first meeting of her mental health support club will be later this month.

Told about the school system’s comment, the teenager said: “If the school does not communicate the availability of counselors, and their role as counselor has been repeatedly labeled as ‘college counselor,’ then how will we know that they are there as a mental health resource?”

Shortages of mental health professionals have been the norm in schools. Professional organizations recommend one school psychologist per 500 students, but the national average is one per 1,160 students, with some states approaching one per 5,000. Similarly, the recommended ratio of one school counselor per 250 students is not widespread. The national average: one per 415 students.

National research from 2019 showed that students of color have not received equal access to school counselors. At that time, 38 states were shortchanging students of color, students from low-income families or both, according to the study done by the Education Trust.

As the pandemic has persisted, students have spoken out — in Nebraska, Arizona, Connecticut and Washington.

In Seattle, students who formed the Seattle Student Union to promote racial justice decided this year to push for mental health support in schools. Chetan Soni, a 17-year-old who co-founded the union, said there are too few mental health professionals to meet rising student needs. The district told him it doesn’t have the money, he said.

Seattle teachers, who went on strike in September, included a call for more mental health support for students as one of their bargaining points. The strike settlement included part-time social workers at most schools — a sign of progress, Soni said, but not enough to help all. “Students are suffering from the pandemic and so many other things too,” he said.

His school, Lincoln High, is fortunate in having a school-based health clinic, run by Neighborcare Health. But just one therapist works there, said Rachel Gordon, the company’s school-based mental health clinical manager. Nearly all therapists based at Seattle’s schools have full caseloads and wait lists, Gordon said. Many run group therapy sessions as a way to serve more students. “We’ve seen increases in anxiety, disordered eating, suicidal ideation, OCD and many other mental health challenges,” she said.

In rural Montana, the squeeze was different: Altacare, a for-profit provider, decided to halt services in the state this year amid recruitment difficulties and funding issues. Districts scrambled to cover for the loss, but many could not, and state officials were limited in what they could do. “Unfortunately, they were serving a lot of the very small rural schools that were already struggling,” said Mary Windecker, executive director of the nonprofit Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana.

The shortages meant that Montana kids who needed residential care, for the most serious mental illnesses, were mostly being sent to other states, she said. “Not because we don’t have beds for those children but because we don’t have people to staff those kids,” she said. “Imagine a six-year-old with a serious emotional disturbance being sent as far away as Georgia. That’s happening.”

One result of all these deficiencies: More students are acting out. Last school year, nearly 40 percent of schools nationally reported increases in physical attacks or fights, and roughly 60 percent reported more disruptions in class because of student misconduct, according to federal data. Las Vegas officials reported several alarming attacks on teachers. In Louisiana, fathers at a Shreveport school showed up to help keep the peace after a particularly heated week of student fighting.

National test scores also plummeted to levels not seen since 1999, according to recent data — setting off a wave of alarm among educators, many of whom consider the mental health crisis a contributing factor.

Full Article HERE 

Gov, Carney signs mental health bills at Sean’s House

Gov, Carney signs mental health bills at Sean’s House

An organization recognized by General Assembly

Delaware Public Media | By Rachel Sawicki  |  Published August 3, 2022 at 6:16 PM EDT

Gov. John Carney (D) signed 3 mental health bills, implementing more proactive measures to treat mental illness.

Legislators and stakeholders gathered at Sean’s House in Newark for the bill signings. The organization opened its doors in 2020, and has saved 61 young adults from a suicidal situation while speaking with more than 30,000 people concerning mental health and suicide awareness over the past 3 years.

State Rep. Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) prime sponsor to the package of bills, says Sean’s House is an example of the approach lawmakers hope Delaware continues to take to addressing mental health early.

“This extraordinary nonprofit organization offers access to trained peer support specialists and community health resources,” she said. “A location to do schoolwork, a place to meet friends. By having a location young adults feel safe, welcomed, supported.”

One bill, HB 300, establish mental health service units for Delaware middle schools. over the next three years, it will boost the number of mental health professionals in middle schools to have one full-time school counselor, school social worker, or licensed clinical social worker for every 250 students and one school psychologist for every 700 students.

The bill is similar to one signed last year, which did the same in elementary schools an Longhurst says more is in the works.

“So today, we’re moving upstream and doing preventative measures in the state of Delaware,” Longhurst said. “We can no longer afford to go downstream. So today we are unlocking that light and we are going to make a difference and we will make it happen. And you will see next year I will be bringing forth another set of mental health issues or legislation and all these people behind me will be with me.”

Two other bills will implement statewide mental health educational programs for grades K-12 and will require insurance carriers to cover an annual wellness check, starting at the beginning of 2023.

“Every dollar invested in mental health can yield up to 10 times the savings in healthcare, criminal and juvenile justice and lost productivity,” Longhurst said.

Coverage for annual wellness checks begin at the beginning of 2023.