Mental health surveys aim to provide new way for students to seek help

The+Early+Warning+Data+Team+%28EWDT%29+at+the+high+school+has+created+surveys+about+mental+health+to+be+sent+out+to+students+five+times+over+the+course+of+the+year.+The+team+and+administration+hope+that+these+surveys+will+provide+students+with+a+less+difficult+way+to+reach+out+to+someone+for+help+if+they+are+struggling.+

GRAPHIC BY SOLA ASH AND NINA ROGERS

The Early Warning Data Team (EWDT) at the high school has created surveys about mental health to be sent out to students five times over the course of the year. The team and administration hope that these surveys will provide students with a less difficult way to reach out to someone for help if they are struggling.

Social pressure, mental illness, academic difficulties: there are a multitude of obstacles that high schoolers find themselves facing, and many students struggle in silence when their hardships go unnoticed. A group of staff members is working to change that.

At five different points in the year, students fill out surveys in advisory concerning their school experience and well being. These surveys are created by the Early Warning Data Team (EWDT) and aim to identify at-risk students early on. The surveys were first administered to the freshman class during the 2018-2019 school year and are continuing this year with the current freshman and sophomore classes. Although many members of the school community commend their goal, not everyone agrees that they’ve been successful.

Student reactions to the surveys have been mixed. Sophomore Gilda Gilbert said that she’s never heard about any student being reached out to because of a survey response and that it doesn’t seem as though all of the surveys are read.

“I feel like a lot of us are going through the same things, and I think it’s honestly hard for the staff to be able to accommodate everyone,” Gilbert said.

However, sophomore Keya Waikar said that her guidance counselor reached out to her because of one of her survey responses, and she now has a very helpful support system.

“I got to know her better and she got to know me better, and I feel much more comfortable with going to her when I need something, whether it’s for a class or just me,” Waikar said.

Psychologist and EWDT Coordinator Matthew DuBois said that the surveys are meant to be an easier means of communication for students who may be uncomfortable with directly asking for help.

“We know that it’s not always easy for a student to go to their guidance counselor or their dean to let them know that something is feeling hard,” DuBois said. “We want to make it really easy for kids to let us know if they need support.”

Dean of Students Lisa Redding said that students are sometimes contacted because of their survey responses, but they may be unaware that the survey is the reason they are being contacted. Redding said that this procedure may have to be rethought and that it’s very important to the staff that students feel supported by the adults around them.

“This is all about our desire to help students. We care about our kids as whole people, not just what grades you’re getting,” Redding said. “So this time and money that we’re spending on this is just because we care so much about our students and want to support them always.”

Waikar said she thinks the surveys cover important topics and she likes the answer options. She also believes they could benefit from reorganization.

“I’d make multiple surveys and make them all a little bit shorter, so it’s not a pain for students be ‘oh, gosh, I have to take a long survey now,’” Waikar said.

Gilbert said that she appreciates the effort being put into the surveys, but she thinks that they could be more effective.

“I have a support system here, which I’m very grateful for, but I know for people who don’t, and this survey won’t necessarily accommodate for everything we need,” Gilbert said. “I don’t think that they’re going to get the help that they need.”

Redding said that although some students likely slip through the cracks, she has reached out to students because of their survey responses before and regularly checks in with them. In some cases, it is hard to tell whether short-term success is achieved, but she hopes that a difference is made in the long run.

“We’re banking on the idea that some intervention, any intervention, is better than no intervention,” Redding said. “And we may not see the effects of that intervention immediately, or now, but we can’t just sit by and not do anything.”

DuBois emphasized that the purpose of the surveys is to support students. Student feedback is very important to the EWDT, and they hope to collect students’ opinions at the end of the school year.

“We want students to feel like it’s a valuable process,” DuBois said. “In those cases where students are feeling like it isn’t a valuable process, it’s really important information for us to know and to respond to.”