Survey shows rise in suicidal thoughts among Roanoke County students, leaders respond

Results show more middle, high schoolers are contemplating, attempting suicide

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - There’s a rise in suicidal thoughts among Roanoke County middle and high school students, according to recently released survey results. More students reported feeling sad for a prolonged period of time, and more students say they’ve been bullied through text or social media.

Roanoke County leaders recently released the results of the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national questionnaire they give to students once every two years. Administrators gave the survey to 6,328 students in February.

Scroll down for a closer look at the results.

Roanoke County leaders discussed information on lower heroin use among students and increased alcohol consumption among middle schoolers Monday.

Roanoke County Prevention Council Director Nancy Hans said Tuesday that leaders are looking at how to continue to provide resources in the most effective way possible to help students.

"It's telling us we have to come together and we've got work to do,” she said.

There are many resources available to both students and parents if they face these issues.

"The takeaway is talking about this, coming together as teams in the school, in the community and saying what can we do?" Hans said.

She said kids spending a large amount of time on social media can contribute to mental health issues.

Students and parents are encouraged to call or visit a counselor. Dr. Shawn Hughes oversees them as the associate director of Roanoke County Public Schools counseling.

“Having any types of thoughts of self-harm is a problem,” Hughes said.

She said the county is evaluating how it can continue to better meet the needs of its students, including considering adding to the number of counselors.

"Reach out for support and let's work together as a community. These statistics are alarming at times as a parent when you seem them and we all need to work together,” she said. “It takes a village to raise children."

She said leaders have been using the survey for years to direct some of their efforts. After learning of opioid use, leaders put more resources into education and prevention of those dangers.

A schools spokesperson said the reason they do the survey is so they can identify problems,
and even 1 percent of students having suicidal thoughts is too high and means leaders will tackle the issue head-on.

If a student is struggling, county leaders encourage her or him, or a parent, to call the school or the student’s counselor. Families can also call a social worker or start with going to a pediatrician if that’s easiest.

On Monday, Roanoke County Schools hosted a summit for counselors and social workers. They worked with outside groups and talked about mental health issues and trauma that children and teens face, and how they can better educate students and parents

A closer look at the survey results is below.

MENTAL HEALTH

More middle and high school students seriously considered suicide in the last year compared to two years ago, with more than 20 percent of students reporting the thought, and the percentage in Roanoke County is above the national percentage.

The percent of students who had a prolonged stretch of feeling sad or hopeless also increased from the 2016 survey and was above the national results. 39 percent of high school students reported feeling this way.

Additionally, 13 percent of high school students attempted suicide in the last year, as the percentages for middle and high school students stayed mostly consistent with previous years, but above the national results.

 

Students who seriously considered suicide in the last year:
Roanoke County high schools:
2018: 22%
2016: 19%
2014: 19%
2012: 17%
2010: 16%
2008: 16%
2006: 15%
Roanoke County middle schools:
2018: 21%
2016: 15%
2014: 17%
2012: 17%
2010: 17%
2008: 18%
2006: 24%

Nationally in 2018, 17 percent of high school students seriously considered suicide.

 

Students who attempted suicide at least once in the last year:
Roanoke County high schools:
2018: 13%
2016: 11%
2014: 11%
2012: 11%
2010: 12%
2008: 11%
2006: 13%
Roanoke County middle schools:
2018: 7%
2016: 7%
2014: 6%
2012: 6%
2010: 6%
2008: 6%
2006: 13%

Nationally in 2018, 7 percent of high school students attempted suicide.

 

Students who made a plan to attempt suicide in the last year:
Roanoke County high schools:
2018: 16%
2016: 15%
2014: 15%
2012: 13%
2010: 14%
2008: 12%
2006: 12%
Roanoke County middle schools:
2018: 8%
2016: 7%
2014: 8%
2012: 8%
2010: 7%
2008: 8%
2006: 12%

Nationally in 2018, 14 percent of high school students made a plan.

 

Students who felt sad or hopeless every day for at least two weeks:
Roanoke County high schools:
2018: 39%
2016: 33%
2014: 30%
2012: 29%
2010: 30%
2008: 29%
2006: 28%
Roanoke County middle schools:
2018: 25%
2016: 19%
2014: 24%
2012: 23%
2010: 26%
2008: 28%
2006: 31%

Nationally in 2018, 32 percent of high school students felt this way.

BULLYING

More Roanoke County students reported getting intimidating messages through text or social media than two years ago, and the number is above the national percentage.

Fewer students reported missing school because of bullying compared to results from two years ago.

More details on the results are below.

 

Students who received intimidating or threatening electronic messages:
Roanoke County high schools:
2018: 40%
2016: 29%
Roanoke County middle schools:
2018: 26%
2016: 20%

Nationally in 2018, 15 percent of high schoolers received messages like these.

Students who ever missed school because of a fear of being bullied:
Roanoke County high schools:
2018: 11%
2016: 16%
Roanoke County middle schools:
2018: 10%
2016: 11%

Nationally in 2018, 7 percent of high school students didn’t go to school at least once in the 30 days before the survey because of a fear of bullying.

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