Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval County Schools Survey; STUDENT DEPRESSION, SUICIDAL THOUGHTS RISE Nearly a Third of County's High School Students Reported Feeling Depressed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval County Schools Survey; STUDENT DEPRESSION, SUICIDAL THOUGHTS RISE Nearly a Third of County's High School Students Reported Feeling Depressed

Article excerpt

Byline: Tessa Duvall

The number of Jacksonville students who report being depressed, planning suicide and even attempting suicide is continuing its troubling climb.

More than one in four Duval County middle school students and nearly one in five high school students surveyed said they have seriously considered suicide, according to a report released Monday that highlighted a second consecutive survey year for increases in suicidal thoughts and depression.

"These aren't just numbers and these aren't just statistics. These are children," Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said at the data release event Monday at the Schultz Center that was attended by service providers and advocates.

"It's horrifying for me to see that data," Vitti said. "If you're talking about suicide, thinking about suicide at that age, think about the depth of sadness and depression that those children are dealing with."

The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, issued to students at every Duval County Public Schools middle and high school, found that 27 percent of middle school students and 19.7 percent of high school students had seriously considered suicide. More than 11 percent of middle school students and almost 19 percent of high school students have attempted suicide.

Natalie Indelicato, an assistant professor in the department of public health at the University of North Florida, said the numbers are "profoundly sobering."

In addition to presenting the survey data, Indelicato shared other mental-health statistics. Twenty percent of youth ages 13 to 18 have a mental-health condition. The average delay between the onset of symptoms and an intervention is eight to 10 years. Florida ranks 49th among states in mental-health funding, and Northeast Florida is the second-lowest-funded area statewide.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24, accounting for 4,600 deaths nationwide annually. Ninety percent of the suicide deaths among people ages 15 to 24 involve an underlying mental illness.

Across the board in Duval County, girls reported higher rates of suicidal behavior, in some cases double the rate of boys. Almost 40 percent of high school girls reported feeling depressed, compared to 22 percent of boys. Students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are especially likely to report feeling depressed: 53 percent.

In middle school, 37.8 percent of girls had seriously thought about suicide, compared to 16.8 percent of boys.

The high school figures also put Duval County above the state and national averages in all measures around suicide and depression. For example, 18.9 percent of area high school kids have attempted suicide, compared to 7.6 percent in Florida and 8 percent nationwide.

Vitti said having the survey results allows the districts and its partners to let data drive decision making to focus on the areas that need the most improvement.

For mental health, the district is training all employees in detecting mental-health needs by the end of next year, he said. …

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