What a new survey says about students’ mental health

High school students report more frequent depression, concerns about basic needs
By: | June 12, 2020
High school students are participating in online learning but report feeling depressed and disconnected more often during the coronavirus outbreak, a survey has found. (GettyImages.com/mjrodafotografia)High school students are participating in online learning but report feeling depressed and disconnected more often during the coronavirus outbreak, a survey has found. (GettyImages.com/mjrodafotografia)

High school students are experiencing “collective trauma” during the coronavirus outbreak and school closures that could have a lasting impact if they don’t receive some immediate support, according to a new survey.

Some 30% of students surveyed by America’s Promise Alliance reported experiencing depression more frequently, with about the same number saying they have felt disconnected from educators and classmates.

Around 30% also said they were increasingly worried about having their basic needs met.

“These findings suggest that students are experiencing a collective trauma, and that they and their families would benefit from immediate and ongoing support for basic needs, physical and mental health, and learning opportunities,” the survey said. “Without that support, this moment in time is likely to have lasting negative effects for this cohort of high school students.”


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Most of the students surveyed (92%) said they were participating in online learning, but more than three-quarters of those students reported spending less time on schoolwork than they would in a typical school day.

In fact, 78% reported spending four of fewer hours in an online class or working on assignments, and this may indicate some students are having trouble concentrating, the survey suggests.

Mental health solutions

High school students living in cities were 15% more likely to report poorer health than did young people in rural areas, the survey found.

Asian and Latinx youth were more likely than black or white students to report poorer health.

America’s Promise Alliance encourages adults to provide support as soon as possible this summer. Whether the interactions are by phone, video, text or in-person, educators should start with “intentional listening” to better understand the concerns and emotions treens are experiencing.

To reduce fears about basic needs, school leaders can work to connect families with community organizations and social services that can provide assistance.


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Finally, it will be critical for educators to personalized support to individual teens based on their varied experiences of the coronavirus outbreak and distance learning.

“While these findings signal the need for universal supports because all young people are suffering, existing and emerging research clearly illustrate the inequities that existed before the spread of COVID-19 and are likely to be exacerbated by it,” the survey said. “It is crucial for communities to uncover and respond to their young people’s unique needs—considering how to tailor and scaffold their supports accordingly.”


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.