TRAILS Program Survey Assesses Student Mental Health Needs in Detroit Schools

This story originally appeared in the Michigan Health Lab Blog.

By Meredith Ollila, TRAILS Communicator

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, serious mental health concerns impacted a significant portion of students in Detroit public schools, a new report shows.

More than half of student respondents in the Detroit Public Schools Community District had experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression, and an alarming 23% had seriously considered attempting suicide within the past year, according to a pre-pandemic assessment conducted by the DPSCD in collaboration with the University of Michigan Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students  (TRAILS) program and Youth Policy Lab

The large-scale survey of more than 15,000 Detroit students, staff and families showed that against that backdrop, the DPSCD is committed to improving student well-being: all stakeholders voiced a desire to increase resources and training to better equip the district with effective and equitable student mental health services.

The needs assessment was the first step in a multiyear partnership between U-M and DPSCD that supports a pillar of the district's Blueprint 2020—the whole-child commitment. The collaboration will focus on student mental health with the goal of providing effective services in all 100-plus DPSCD schools. This aligns with the district's commitment to social and emotional development of its students in addition to physical health and academic readiness.

Surveys completed by more than 11,000 Detroit students (grades 8-12), nearly 3,500 staff and 800 families provided data about risk and protective factors, access and barriers to care, student symptoms of depression and anxiety, satisfaction with available resources and attitudes about mental health. Findings will help to inform and evaluate the impact of future programming for students, staff and families.

"We recognize that the ability of students to take full advantage of educational opportunity requires that we create a foundational culture of health and wellness throughout each and every one of our schools," said DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. "This assessment provides an unprecedented view of the well-being of the district and the priority needs identified by our community."

A survey effort of this size and scope is unprecedented and required extensive collaboration among DPSCD, TRAILS and the Youth Policy Lab.

To read the rest of the story visit the Michigan Health Lab Blog.