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Survey: Rising Number Of Duval Students Have Contemplated Suicide

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A student health survey released by Duval County Public Schools finds an alarming rise in the number of students who have attempted or considered suicide.

The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was released Thursday, found about 1-in-5 middle and high school students reported making a plan to commit suicide, up significantly since 2009.

Katrina Taylor, director of school behavioral health with the school district, said the data on suicide will be important in sharing with educators during trainings.

“All educators in our district are required to take Youth Mental Health First Aid training, which helps them better identify when students are having a mental health crisis and give them the right resources,” said Taylor. “Informing educators on the reality that more than 30 percent of our students in middle school have seriously considered suicide will be a much needed reminder that addressing their mental health is as much a priority as their academic health.”

Credit Duval County Public Schools

The survey also found bullying to be a big issue, with 7.5% of high school students reporting being bullied on school property during the 12 months before the survey, and 40.1% of middle school students reported ever being bullied on school property.

Vaping is also becoming a health concern on public school campuses, with 3.7% of middle school and 16.5% of high school students reporting current electronic vapor product use.

Related: Complete survey results

“We continually look for ways to innovatively use the survey data in partnering with local agencies to mitigate the high-risk behaviors of our youth,” said Heather Albritton, the school district’s director of health and physical education. “We know that we must press forward to find new, broader ways to connect our students with programming, services, and educational experiences that can help shape their habits into life-long beneficial, positive behaviors.”

Hunger also remains an issue, with 6.7% of middle school students' saying that most of time or always,  they went hungry, and 16.3% said they did not eat breakfast during the seven days before the survey.

On the other hand, the percent of students who reported being sexually active dropped significantly from 37.7% in 2009 compared to 23.5% in the 2019 survey.

“Today’s youth are making better decisions about their sexual health than just a decade ago,” said Dr. Pauline Rolle, interim health officer and medical director of the Florida Department of Health in Duval County. “We have made strides in the behaviors that put students most at risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.”

As an example of those strides, the district cited the Teen Health Centers in Duval County. Through a partnership between the school district, the Health Department and Full Service Schools of Jacksonville, the Teen Health Centers offer sexual health services to students including free screening for STDs, HIV and pregnancy; education about STD and HIV prevention; and treatment and counseling for students who test positive.

The district said the survey was completed by 4,128 students from 21 public high schools, and of those, 4,032 surveys were usable after data editing.

Photo used under Creative Commons license.