WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says more students experience mental and behavioral challenges during the fall semester.

The KDHE released data from 2016-2020 through the Kansas Violent Death Report System, which states that nearly 1 in 3 youth in Kansas who died by suicide experienced behavior and mental health challenges in school at the time of their death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are as many as 63% more child and adolescent mental and behavioral health emergency room visits in the fall school semester compared to summer break.

“We are in the midst of a youth mental health crisis,” said State Health Officer Joan Duwve, M.D., MPH. “Youth are resilient, but we need to better understand the stressors they encounter daily and apply evidence-based prevention, early identification, and intervention practices to improve our youth’s mental health and wellness.”

The KDHE has shared the following key findings from the CDC 2018-2023 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and from Kansas data:

  • Nationally, for youth aged 10-14 and 15-17 years, emergency department visits for depressive disorders, suicidal ideation or self-harm, and trauma- and stressor-related conditions were significantly more frequent in both the fall and spring semesters when compared to the previous summer semester.
    • Kansas trends indicate that for 10-14-year-olds, depressive disorder visits were significantly more frequent in the fall semester compared to the previous summer break each year from 2018-2022. Visits for 15-17-year-olds were significantly more frequent in the fall than in the summer for 2018-2021.
    • Kansas emergency department visits for suicidal ideation or self-harm were significantly more frequent in both the fall and spring periods compared to the previous summers across all years from fall 2018 to spring 2023.

The KDHE also shared certain school-related stressors that children and adolescents may face, such as:

  • Transitioning into a new school year or new school away from friends
  • Academic performance pressure and testing
  • Bullying and peer victimization that is not reported
  • Social anxiety that decreases confidence and worsens mental health

The Kansas State Department of Education has developed a toolkit for preventing and response resources for schools to reduce barriers to mental health services for Kansas youth.

“Childhood and adolescent mental and behavioral health are serious health priorities. Poor mental and behavioral health in youth are risk factors for drug use, violence, and other cognitive factors that last into adulthood,” the KDHE said. “Positive childhood experiences combined with family, school and community involvement can reduce the current mental health crisis.”

The KDHE says you can promote mental and behavioral health by the following:

  • Building strong relationships with adults and friends at school and in the community
  • Providing students with mental health services and resources at school and in the home environment
  • Engaging school-aged youth in social and emotional learning programs
  • Encourage parents in discussions about how to connect with their adolescents, communicate effectively, and monitor activities and behavior

For more information about childhood and adolescent behavioral health prevention resources, click here.