Dear community members,
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an important occasion to reflect on the wellness of our educational community and share resources.
We are keenly aware of how challenging the past two years have been for our students, staff, and families — in many different ways.
More than half of middle and high school students in Santa Cruz County reported experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2021, the last year of the California Healthy Kids Survey. That self-reported rate of 55% represents an alarming increase from the prior CHKS survey in 2019, when 44% reported those feelings. The data shows these mental health challenges have inequitable impacts on our students, particularly our LGBTQ+ community (you can dive deeper into this data on our Data Portal).
It’s also true we are seeing some small steps in the right direction. Rates of suicide, the most heartbreaking outcome for any student, are continuing to trend downward among our students. Even a single loss of a student, however, is a tragedy that can never be tolerated.
We must do more.
In recent years we have made socio-emotional learning and wellness a core focus of our work at the COE, in collaboration with our school districts and nonprofit partners. Expect this work to continue, and expand. Earlier this year we secured $5 million in grant funding to hire staff and help students navigate the maze of identifying services, finding providers, and meeting insurance requirements.
This week I invite you to explore our resources for families, share them widely, and respond to this email with any additional resources or tips you have found helpful in coping with mental health challenges.
Yours in education and equity,
Dr. Faris Sabbah
County Superintendent of Schools