Written by Samuel Tse
In July, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an Epi-Aid preliminary report on youth suicide in Santa Clara. This report revealed findings about the factors that contribute to mental health issues at schools around the Santa Clara County. A full report with more findings will be released later this year.
is initiative was created when the Palo Alto Uni ed School District (PAUSD) led a request to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department for help from the CDC a er a number of student suicides occurred in Palo Alto from 2009 to 2015.
Project Safety Net Executive Director Mary Gloner believes that the preliminary report is a step forward for the community. “One of the significant cant impacts of the report is raising awareness as well as why suicide is occurring and learning about the extent of it in our community,” Gloner said. “It provides an opportunity for us to look at the recommendation that says what gaps are there and what can we do as a community.”
According to the report, there was overlap between students that had considered suicide and students who reported mental stress, missed school in the past month, experienced bullying and victimization, used alcohol or drugs in their lifetime, engaged in binge drinking in the last month or self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual .
In addition, men were found to have a higher suicide rate than females, a finding Principal Dr. Denise Herrmann feels is important to improving the school’s wellness program. “The report talked about needing to provide more ongoing initial support for young men,” Herrmann said. “They’re more reluctant to share some of the early signs of emotional distress than girls, who it seems like they are more willing to ask for help than boys are. And so the challenge is how can we provide more support to more of our male students?”
Gloner found that statistic important as well. “That stood out and rather than making assumptions as to why that is the case, we need to explore further,” Gloner said. “ is is also new information to the community. Some studies have shown that males are less likely to seek mental health support or discuss with adults. Social customs have taught women to be more open, while males are raised to be reserved in expressing vulnerability.”
Although Herrmann understands that the full report by the CDC will be more substantive, she feels that the preliminary report does contain important data. “There are only five key findings right now and they’re really important, like the idea that a trusted adult is very important in a student’s life,” Herrmann said.
“We’re already doing so much of that with Sources of Strength, Changing the Narrative and all these things that help people to be open about their challenges and sharing and reaching out for help.”
The Epi-Aid Community Coordinating Committee has been tasked with deciphering and evaluating the findings from the report. “The primary role of the committee is to be a mobilizing arm of our community, where we have leaders in our community to help review the preliminary report and to translate information so that it is meaningful to the respective constituents they represent,” Gloner said. “To re-enforce activities that already are occurring in the community and ad- dressing issues so when the final report is released, it empowers the public.”
With the full CDC report expected to be released in December, PAUSD is looking forward to how the report will affect their budget and staffing decisions for next year. “I feel very good that we already made a priority out of our Wellness Center so we already made student wellness and wellbeing a priority, but the timing of the next report will have the opportunity to influence some of the decisions we make when we build our budget and do our hiring for the following year,” Herrmann said. “If there is any dramatic information that is new to us or that shows that, ‘Wow, we really should be spending more time, energy, money on this particular aspect,’ that would give us time to make those changes to help improve how we approach student well-being.”