Survey echoes a problem that needs to be addressed

Published 6:48 am Saturday, October 26, 2019

Late last week, the Minnesota Department of Education released its 2019 Minnesota Student Survey.

The survey polls Minnesota students in fifth-, eighth-, ninth- and 11th-grades every three years about things including school climate, bullying, out-of-school activities and emotional health among other subjects. The survey is both voluntary and anonymous.

State agencies use this survey to identify trends and help guide the targeting of resources in an effort to improve the well-being of students, according to the press release.

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The survey pinpointed a number of areas of concern from health to security, but it led off with disturbing numbers on mental health, something that the entire nation is struggling to cope with.

The data shows that more students than ever are reporting long-term mental health, behavioral or emotional problems. In 2016, 18 percent of students surveyed reported long-term mental health, behavioral or emotional problems. That number has ticked up to 23 percent in this most recent survey.

In particular, female students in 11th grade who reported the above issues has doubled from 2013 to 2019.

The data also reflects the strong feelings between a student’s beliefs that others care about them and whether they have considered suicide.

In the press release announcing the study’s results, Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said, “Our students are talking to us and we must listen.”

There is no quick fix to this problem and no one thing will reverse these numbers. Both communities and schools throughout the nation are dealing with these kinds of issues in an age where the challenges seem to be growing exponentially.

This is a problem that is not only affecting students in larger cities. It is also entangling those in rural communities, often times without the proper resources to truly fight this tide.

This needs to be a community issue dedicated to the long term. Not just a school, not just a family, but an entire community that agrees that steps must be taken collectively in order to make our students feel safe in a world that can often times seem harsh and unforgiving.

The work that is done now will go toward helping ease the stresses bearing down on their shoulders.

We urge you to get involved in the wellbeing of our students. Ask a student if they are okay, sit with a student who is eating alone, invite them to do things, be a friend.

It’s a call to action that is an investment in our future.