Colorado State Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet knows first-hand how mental health issues can affect children. At the age of nine, her son attempted suicide. “He was just so distraught and at the end of his rope,” Jenet said to ABC 7 News in Denver, Colorado. Thankfully, Jenet’s son is now a happy twenty year old. Now, Jenet is working to make sure that other children experiencing depression and suicidal ideation get the help that they need. Jenet recently introduced House Bill 23-1003. If passed, this bill would offer Colorado districts the opportunity to participate in yearly mental health evaluations in schools.
The Youth Mental Health Crisis
The mental health of children and teenagers is in a serious crisis. Prior to the pandemic, the CDC noted a 40% increase in depression and suicidal ideation over the course of ten years. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the pandemic rapidly deepened this crisis. Many children lost caregivers to the disease. Other children experienced emotional or physical abuse in their homes, without the access to services provided by in-person schooling. School cancellations also led to social isolation. The APA reports that this led to an increase in rates of depression and of suicide.
A Colorado Bill Proposes Yearly Mental Health Evaluations in Schools
Colorado House Bill 23-1003 would give schools the option to offer students voluntary mental health evaluations conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Through these annual evaluations, schools could identify students suffering from depression and give them the help they need. The evaluations would also help normalize conversations about mental health. “Like you would have an eye exam or an ear exam, this would be a mental health examination,” Representative Jenet told ABC 7 News Denver.
LearnSafe Can Protect Student Mental Health
To learn more about how yearly mental health screenings in schools can help students, LearnSafe teamed up with the Missouri Association of Rural Education (MARE) to present a webinar. The webinar, “Screening Students for Behavioral, Social and Emotional Health: How Prevention Practices Help You Sleep at Night,” shows how schools can use screening to give students the help they need. To further protect student mental health, schools can install LearnSafe on school computers. LearnSafe is screen monitoring software that can detect mentions of depression and suicidal ideation on school computers. This can help schools give students the help that they need, such as individual counseling or grade-level assemblies.