New TX Teen Suicide Data Show School Support is Needed

For Immediate Release
Contact: Peter Clark, pclark@txchildren.org, 512-473-2274

The CDC Report Shows Nearly One in Eight Texas High School Students Attempted Suicide in 2017, Highlighting How Common Mental Health Challenges are for Texas Youth

nearly-one-in-eight-SQ.png

Austin - Twelve percent of Texas high school students attempted suicide in 2017 according to disturbing new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data, collected through the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), demonstrate how widespread mental health challenges are among Texas youth. The 2017 Texas youth suicide rate was substantially higher than the national average of seven percent and higher than the previously reported Texas rate of 10 percent in 2013.

The report includes a number of other data points on teen health and behavior. It shows an increase in the already-high number of Texas high schoolers who reported feeling sad or hopeless: 34 percent in 2017 compared to 28 percent in 2013. It also shows that many Texas high school students — around 19 percent — reported that they were bullied on campus, similar to the number reported in 2013.

Following the release of the data, Josette Saxton, Director of Mental Health Policy at Texans Care for Children, released the following statement:

“The pain and despair behind these numbers is heartbreaking, but it should also be a call to action. We all need to work harder to understand and address the causes of this crisis. We also need our policymakers to strength our children’s mental health policies, including policies to support students through our schools. State leaders should keep these numbers — and the lives that they represent — in mind as they consider proposals to make our schools more safe and supportive after the shooting at Santa Fe high school.

“Schools play a critical role in addressing children’s mental health because they are so central to our kids’ lives. A growing number of Texas school districts have recognized the importance of addressing student mental health in order to prevent suicide, boost academic performance, improve behavior, and support children’s healthy development. State leaders also increasingly recognized the importance of addressing student mental health. Governor Abbott emphasized the importance of student mental health in the plan he recently released for safe and supportive schools, for example.

“The new data is further evidence that significant mental health challenges are very common among Texas kids. Providing more students with access to mental health professionals is critical, but because these challenges are so common it is also important to go beyond only serving those students with the most visible and acute needs.

“We encourage more Texas school districts to implement school-wide practices that support all students' mental well-being and help them develop skills for managing feelings of sadness, stress, anger, and conflict. If students are struggling with depression or anxiety, schools can provide or help connect students and their families to mental health services they need to safe, healthy, and engaged in school. We are pleased to see that a number of school districts are already implementing these strategies.

“The Legislature should help more school districts take action. Just as the Legislature established a Texas School Safety Center to help districts handle security issues, it should establish a center on student mental health so districts have a trusted place to turn for training and technical assistance on social emotional learning, student mental health, and creating safe and supportive school practices. The Legislature should also provide funding for mental health professionals, such as counselors and social workers, as Governor Abbott suggested.”