JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A federal survey finds that 19 percent of Duval County high school students are depressed to the point they have attempted suicide.
Results of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior confirms what many experts already knew and the Legislature wrote into the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act -- health care needs to be a higher priority for school-age students.
The students' responses in the CDC's 2017 survey are alarming: Nearly one in five Duval County high school student has attempted suicide in the past 12 months. Slightly more than 21 percent have considered suicide. More than one third said they had been depressed for at least two consecutive weeks.
"In Duval County, just watching the regular news, you can see a lot of these kids have been exposed to trauma, and trauma is a risk factor for depression and suicidal thoughts," said Dr. Lynn Waddleton, First Coast Therapy Group. "Trauma, loss, violence -- those are really important figures, things we need to address as a community as a bigger picture."
Waddleton said it’s a collaborative effort between schools and experts like her, as well as parents and friends. She said there needs to be information for students to know what help they have -- signs, for instance -- posted throughout schools and even on school buses.
Currently, a student in Duval County schools must get a referral and get parental permission before they can receive counseling, according to Katrina Taylor, director of school behavioral health for the school district.
"One in five individuals deals with a mental health condition. One in four have had trauma at some point in their life. So don’t look at mental illness as something that is cliché or bad or taboo -- just address it as you would a headache as you would a knee injury."
Waddleton says not every child will show signs of depression, and advises parents and others to be aware of these behavioral changes:
- Loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities
- Change in sleep
- Change in appetite
- Declining grades
Doctors, the school district and the community want students to know that if they are stressed or depressed, it's OK to ask for help.
Click here for more resources from Duval County Public Schools.
Call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.