School Mental Health in Detroit Public Schools Community District

Key Findings:
  1. A large portion of students across DPSCD experience substantial symptoms of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation; and many have experienced traumatic events. Several groups of students are particularly vulnerable. Rates of depression and anxiety, and suicidal ideation among students exceed national averages. Students who have had 4 or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) were more likely to be depressed than students with fewer ACEs. Academic stress was the top mental health concern identified by students, followed by anxiety, depression, and family stress. Students who identify as gender nonbinary, transgender, or LGBTQIA+ had higher rates of mental health difficulties, and girls had higher rates of depression and anxiety than boys. Students who experienced homelessness were also more likely to be depressed, anxious, and to report ACEs.
  2. Students who reported symptoms of a mental illness and/or a history of trauma exposure, also reported poorer overall school engagement. Students with depression, anxiety, and exposure to ACEs were more likely to report chronic absenteeism and difficulties completing schoolwork or studying. Rates of disciplinary action were also significantly higher for students with depression, anxiety, and exposure to 4 or more ACEs.
  3. A substantial number of students with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression report not accessing any school or community mental health support services. A variety of local services and programs currently support social and emotional health throughout the District, with teachers and doctors being the most commonly accessed school and community resources. Most students who accessed these resources reported that they were helpful. However, a significant number of students, including many with symptoms of anxiety and/ or depression or with extensive exposure to ACEs, reported not accessing any supports and noted a wide variety of barriers. Overall, students voiced a desire for a quiet place to go in school and more mental health and suicide prevention training for staff. Listening to music and exercising were the most commonly used healthy coping skills, while evidenced-based coping skills, such as facing fears and questioning thoughts, were less likely to be used.
  4. Staff recognize the need for school-based mental health supports and for available supports to be more effective. DPSCD staff and leaders are passionate and dedicated to serving students in the Detroit community, and the desire for PD in effective student mental health practices was evident. Top PD interests among teachers and administrators included training in social and emotional learning (SEL), while support staff were most interested in best practices to support students affected by anxiety and depression. Very low mental health stigma was reported among staff. However, many staff reported experiencing burnout and difficulty managing student behavior. New teachers experienced the highest level of burnout among staff. The majority of staff also expressed interest in learning about self-care strategies to promote their own wellness and help them cope with burnout and vicarious trauma.
  5. There are discrepancies in perspectives on the identification, referral, and risk response systems within schools. Most staff were either unaware of mental health management systems in their schools or reported that their school did not have such a system. Over half of all staff said there was no formal system in their school to refer students to school-delivered mental health services. Most staff also said there was no formal system for responding to students at risk of suicide in their school. Conversely, over half of administrators said there was a system in place in their school to identify students in need of mental health services.
...the impact of COVID-19 is not distributed equitably, hitting hardest communities of color and among families contending with poverty.” Page 2