The River Falls School Board was presented with a “Mental Health State of the Union” report at their meeting on Nov. 21. River Falls School District Student Services Director Mark Inouye gave the presentation.
Four elementary schools, Meyer Middle School and the high school participated in an anonymous risk behavior survey. The survey was conducted last year with other surrounding school districts.
The results were positive.
Elementary students were asked one question; “Is there a grown-up at school that you can talk to if you have a big problem?” All four schools (Westside, Greenwood, Rocky Branch, Montessori) each answered “yes” over 95%.
“These numbers are really good for kids in our buildings,” Westside Principle Chris Kamrath said.
At Meyer Middle School students were asked about anxiety, depression and suicide. Results showed students feel connected and supported at school. This included 76% of students reporting they “agree or strongly agree they belong at school.”
The survey did show one area of improvement needed for the school. Students responded “yes” 66% to the question “students who have at least one teacher or adult they can talk to.”
Overall middle school students responded with encouraging numbers to the questions. Inouye knows there is room for improvement.
“Some of these numbers are not as great as we would like to see. It’s something we are continuity striving to do better here at River Falls,” he said.
The results for the high school were presented last. Students were asked the same questions as the middle school.
The results were not as encouraging.
One question asked if students have experienced anxiety which resulted in 48% saying “yes.” Another question resulted in 62% of students saying they “agree or strongly agree they belong in school.”
Students who responded “yes” to the question “have you felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks in a row that you have stopped doing usual activities” at 30%.
Inouye said the question informs staff of students who have suffered from depression. He said the result is a 3.5% increase from when the survey was last conducted in 2018.
Aside from the increase, results were good from the other questions. Inouye said results have decreased overall from the 2018 survey. He added the decrease includes Meyer Middle School.
“In a similar manner to the middle school, again some numbers I think when you think of these being our students it’s something that warrants focused work,” Inouye said.
Inouye said there is no major reason for concern regarding the results. He said the same survey will be conducted again in the spring.
Inouye said current mental health practices are available at all three levels of education for students. Practices include one-on-one counseling opportunities at the elementary schools and student services providing mental health support at the middle and high school.
On the administrative level Inouye said professional development for mental health education will continue. This includes creating resources for parents and using existing school programs.
Inouye concluded the presentation by saying he is proud of the student services teams throughout the district. He thanked Superintendent Jamie Benson and the School Board for their supporting and prioritizing mental health in the district.
“You can see that our students definitely need it and you can see a lot of really great work is being done,” Inouye said.