September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and Southeast Texas presents a critical view of the need for mental health resources, specifically for our youth. The natural and manmade disasters in the Southeast Texas region, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and recent school shootings, argue for improved initiatives for allocating resources and personnel toward developing resiliency in high school students.
Southeast Texans have endured many devastating disasters since 2005 that have caused loss of life, loss of personal property and homelessness. These events have exacerbated anxiety and hopelessness in our community’s homes and schools for the entirety of our children’s lives. When the transitional period of adolescence is coupled with a series of traumatic events, there is a high probability of an increase in struggles such as depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.
Throughout the last decade, Samaritan Counseling Center of Southeast Texas has experienced an increase in adolescent clients. As this pattern continued, the leadership team decided to conduct a longitudinal study called The Wellness Program in three local high schools to determine the value and impact that education, prevention and intervention has on the mental health needs of students. Samaritan’s study screened for levels of depression, anxiety, stress, suicidal ideation and social determinants. Samaritan provided mental health support on campus, counseling and social services to students. All participating students were provided education on general mental wellness, caring for your mental health, and basic coping skills.
In 2019, local freshmen were screened, and 9% revealed they seriously considered attempting suicide in the month before the screening. In 2022, this number dropped to 2% in the same group of students as they began their senior year. The decrease in suicidal thoughts of students who received four years of on-campus mental health support and education demonstrates the significance of school-based mental health programs.
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There is an urgent demand for wellness intervention and education locally. In the past two years alone, The Wellness Program identified six students needing immediate psychiatric care due to an intent to harm themselves. These six young lives, in addition to the 554 other children, who considered or attempted suicide, are vital pieces of our community that could have been forever lost if not for Samaritan’s school-based mental health program.
The shifting paradigm in the way Southeast Texans support the mental health of our children has led to a cohort of young adults beginning their futures with the tools necessary to find success. Partnerships between school districts and local mental health facilities can ensure resilience and strength for our children.
For more information on how your school district can provide support to students, contact Samaritan Counseling Center’s Executive Director, Robin McCutcheon at RobinM@sccset.org or Samaritan’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Brooke Loupe at BrookeL@sccset.org. You can also contact our office at 409-727-6400.
Loupe is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Samaritan Counseling Center of Southeast Texas.