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.
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.”
Delaware Governor John Carney has signed in to law three pieces of legislation meant to improve mental health resources in Delaware.
“My highest priority is making sure we give students everything they need to be successful,” said Governor Carney. “This package of legislation strengthens our mental and behavioral health services so that we can identify, support, and help students in and out of the classroom. I want to thank Speaker Longhurst and the members of the Delaware General Assembly for their advocacy and hard work on behalf of our students.”
“Today we took another critical step forward, not just in policy, but in our commitment to creating a future where every Delawarean has access to the mental health care and resources they need,” said House Speaker Valerie Longhurst. “The bills Governor Carney signed today will help to deliver the compassionate, comprehensive mental health support residents need and deserve, but we’re not stopping here. Just as we have for the last several years, we’re going to continue to address the mental health crisis in our state with the urgency and seriousness it deserves.”
Legislators say the first bill, House Bill 3, helps students by allowing them excused absences for mental or behavior health reasons. As a part of this bill, any student who needs more than two of these absences be referred to a school-based mental or behavioral health specialist.
The second is House Bill 4, which is also aimed at students. Legislators say that it makes sure students have access to behavior health support in school after a school-connected traumatic event, which is defined as the death of any student, educator, administrator, or other building employee, or any other traumatic event that effects a significant portion of the students at the school.
“During my 25-year tenure as a public school teacher, I saw firsthand how mental health played a crucial role in a student’s ability to meaningfully learn and develop,” said Sen. Laura Sturgeon, chair of the Senate Education Committee and Senate prime sponsor of HB 3 and HB 4.
“With House Bill 3 and House Bill 4, we are ensuring Delaware’s youngest minds have access to the mental and behavioral support they need to thrive both in and outside of the classroom.”
As a part of House Bill 4, officials say the Delaware Department of Education will develop guidance, best practices, and written resources for school dealing with school-connected traumatic events. They say the department will also be responsible for covering the costs of grief counseling offered to students for up to 45 days after the event, with an option to renew for another 45 days.
“We’re grateful to Speaker Longhurst for, once again, taking important steps to support youth mental health in Delaware,” said Angela Kimball, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy at Inseparable. “This year’s legislation showcases the Speaker’s leadership and dedication to youth mental health, which not only makes Delaware a better place to grow up but also is putting Delaware on the map as a national leader in mental health.”
Both bills are part of a larger package called “the 2023 Delaware Behavioral Health Package.” They say the measures are part of a holistic approach to improving the way mental health care is given to children in Delaware.
The third house bill, 160 (S), is about creating a way to fund the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The 988 National Suicide Designation Act was passed by Congress in 2020, but legislators say states were independently responsible for setting the lifeline up. 988 would be the universal three-digit calling code for it, like how 911 is used for public safety emergencies.
The bill generates income to fund the lifeline through a 60-cent monthly surcharge on all phones and landlines, as well as a 60-cent fee on prepaid services. Legislators say these fees mirror fees already collected to support 911.
The bill has the money go to the Behavior Health Crisis Intervention Services Fund, which would fund the lifeline and a plan for a variety of services meant to help Delawareans experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
House Bill 160 (S) also creates a 20-member board, says legislators, that will develop a comprehensive statewide crisis intervention services plan and recommend to the governor and general assembly how to use the money from the surcharge. They say the board will be made up of state health officials, behavioral health experts, medical professionals, law enforcement and others.
“The creation of the 988 hotline wasn’t just a symbolic gesture — this has been a critical tool to help people get the same level of urgent and individualized care that they would if they were to call 911,” said Sen. Poore. “I’m proud to work alongside Speaker Longhurst to make the 988 hotline a more sustainable resource here in Delaware. We must continue to invest in our state’s mental health infrastructure, and I thank Governor Carney for signing this next important step into law.”
Credit WRDE | Benjamin Rothstein
With your support, Delaware Guidance Services continues to serve children and their families here in Delaware!
Click on our video to see images from our 70th anniversary celebration!
Please join 𝐌𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐚 𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐧𝐞, Program Manager of the Mobile Response and Stabilization Services (MRSS) Youth Crisis Program at Delaware Guidance Services, for an information session about the 𝐌𝐑𝐒𝐒 𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐦.
Participants will learn about the statewide, 24/7 services available through MRSS as well as recommended best practices in crisis intervention services for children and youth.
Time will be provided for questions and answers related to the specific situations schools encounter when supporting children in crisis.
Full-time | Salary range: $28,050 – $37,950 a year
Under the supervision of the Crisis Clinical Coordinator, the Youth Peer Support Specialist will provide peer mentoring services, include peer counseling, mentoring, support, and advocacy according to the needs, interests and perspectives of youth receiving services from the Mobile Response and Stabilization Services (MRSS) program due to an identified crisis. The ultimate goal of peer mentoring is to engage the youth in the support available, advocate for the needs of the youth, and assist in transitioning into other support services that may be needed in the community.
The focus of the Youth Peer Support Specialist is to support the youth during the risk assessment that occurs when a request is made to the MRSS program and to provide ongoing mentoring while the MRSS case is open. The Youth Peer Support Specialist will work closely with the MRSS crisis clinician to help the youth achieve their goals and find stability in the community.
In addition, the incumbent is responsible for documentation of mentoring services provided from intake through discharge. This position is available due to grant funding that will end on September 30, 2025.
Risk Assessment Mentoring
- Maintain professional, trauma-informed, and empathetic interactions during crisis interactions with children, families, and stakeholders
- Use critical thinking and risk management skills when connecting with youth during mentoring
- Understand and utilize knowledge about warning signs and risk factors associated with suicide risk and risk of harm to others
- Develop comprehensive skills in providing support for youth in crisis
- Provide individual peer support and counseling
- Share lived experience related to recovery, when appropriate
- Conduct routine home visits
- Communicate with and provide appropriate documentation to the DPBHS team, as needed
- Communicate with appropriate stakeholders to maintain a systems-based approach to assisting with the youth’s stabilization
- Maintain complete, accurate, and timely documentation
- Uphold professional standards of peer mentoring and the mission of the organization
- Maintain a quality code of conduct, ethics and professionalism
- Provide goal-directed and team-oriented services
- Communicate effectively and professionally with all stakeholders
- Reliability & Flexibility
- Customer Service
- Written and Verbal Communication
- Collaboration and Teamwork
Work environment: Community-Based, Office location in Lewes, Dover, or Newark, DE
Travel required: Travel to locations where the client resides or is located
- Lived experience as a youth who experienced support due to behavioral health needs
- Young Adult ages 18-24 years old
- High School Diploma or Equivalent
- Valid driver’s license and satisfactory driving record
Delaware Guidance Services is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions.
Please note this job description is not designed to cover or contain a comprehensive listing of activities, duties or responsibilities that are required of the employee for this job. Duties, responsibilities and activities may change at any time with or without notice.
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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
U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on 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
June is LGBTQIA+ pride month! Celebrate the ones you love by supporting local businesses, non-profits, and community groups that uplift and enrich the lives of LGBTQIA+ people in Delaware!
As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to every one of you who invests time and resources to address this critical health need that impacts everyone, regardless of race or zip code. By working hand in hand with our community, we create a comprehensive and nurturing environment where young minds flourish.
Together, we will continue our focus on increasing access to quality care by increasing awareness, removing barriers, and dismantling stigmas related to mental wellness. No organization can do it alone, but together, we can transform lives.
Community Education Building, CEO
Download the May 2023 Issue (PDF)