LTISD students show high trends in perceived self-harm, stress and thoughts of suicide, survey shows

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LAKE TRAVIS ISD Students reported that they were stressed and did not know how to handle stress, leading to a higher amount of suicidal ideation and self-harm coping strategies then average districts in the country, according to results of a survey the district administered last May.

Health and Social Programs Coordinator Kathleen Hassenfratz reviewed results of a youth risk behavior survey with the board of trustees Jan. 23. Taken by 1,413 total students in grades seven, nine and 11, the electronic survey asked questions about district culture, drug habits and overall mental health.

While many districtwide survey trends were in line with national results, students identified Lake Travis High School as a party school at a higher-than-expected rate, Hassenfratz said.

“We’re excited about making sure staff sees this information because we think that it will affect them,” Hassenfratz said. “These individuals got into this profession because they love kids.”

She said the district is working on educating staff, club sponsors and community members who work with students about mental health and how to identify when a child is showing signs of stress or risky behavior.

“Basically we need to make sure parents and the community are aware that we need to do this together,” she said.

Out of 720 middle school survey respondents, 117 reported that they had contemplated committing suicide over the past 12 months, 59 reported they had made plans to kill themselves and 30 said they attempted suicide during that time frame. In terms of school pressure, 414 middle school respondents said the stress of school was “too much.”

“Apparently 30 kids in our school district have attempted to commit suicide [over the past 12 months]. That’s astounding. That’s out of this world,” Trustee Bob Dorsett said during the presentation. 

Hassenfratz said part of the issue is students have not been taught coping strategies consistently enough for them to appropriately deal with stress.

“We have a lot of teaching to do,” she said.

Of high school respondents, 77 percent respondents felt supported by parents and 58 percent said they felt support from teachers at the high school. Of middle school respondents, 87 percent felt supported by parents and 60 percent felt supported by teachers.

At the high school, 60 percent of respondents said they “strongly agreed” that students drink alcohol and 55 percent “strongly agreed” that students smoke e-cigarettes. Hassenfratz said the growing trend of e-cigarettes use at local campuses is in line with national norms.

“This information is not meant to be something that is overwhelming as much as it should be something that motivates us to take steps to support kids,” she said. “We have realized that this is a good snapshot, but getting more information would help us guide the next steps of our actions a little more effectively.”

District staff surveyed students in grades 7-12 the final week of January, and results will be discussed in the spring.

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  1. Trustee Bob Dorsett needs to brush up on his reading comprehension skills. According to this article, the survey said 30 MIDDLE SCHOOL kids out of 720 middle school respondents in Lake Travis ISD attempted to commit suicide during the 12 month survey time frame. And apparently, only students in grades 7, 9, and 11 were tested. So presumably there are also 6th and 8th graders in LTISD who attempted suicide during the survey time frame, but this survey did not get their input.

    Sounds like a mental health epidemic in LTISD if you ask me.

  2. I suggest a 1 hour lunch hour with mandatory sports, running, or walking for a full 30 minutes of that hour, a 15 minute exercise break mid morning and another mid afternoon with one hour at the end of the day of weeding, hoeing, picking vegetables in a garden on campus. This garden raises organic vegetables that are served for lunch. All students must eat the Whole 30 diet and only that with all meats, eggs, etc. free of antibiotics on campus and at home. Limit all media, phone, computer, TV, gaming…….all of it to 4 hours a day total with minutes counted and then all media goes off. The first period in every class from K through 12th grade is Kindness…….how it feels, how it starts, where it comes from. The period just after lunch is a class where all grades learn how to do something with their hands, sew things, fix things, clean things, cook things, make things, design things…….any physical, practical skill which rotates a few times a year or is a choice.

  3. I agree with Carolyn. Students need to be able to work with their hands at least once a day and get excersize in their routine to help their brains re-energize and think more openly and creatively rather than rigourasly hammering curriculum in their heads all day long. This can help them become happier, more self-sufficient and help with more problem solving techniques in their homework and life situations.

    Learning is very important, but it can be better if it is combined with allowing us to function as physical humans too. Not a hippy here, but we are missing out on some really important educational basics to what it means to be a human being.

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Nicholas Cicale
Nick was born in Long Island, New York and grew up in South Florida. He graduated from Florida State University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in writing and a minor in music. Nick was a journalist for three years at the St. James Plaindealer in Minnesota before moving to Austin to join Community Impact Newspaper in 2016.
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