Samaritan Counseling Center ready to provide student services locally
Published 12:08 am Friday, August 25, 2023
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and Southeast Texas presents a critical view of the need for mental health resources, specifically for our youth.
The natural and manmade disasters in Southeast Texas, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and recent school shootings, argue for improved initiatives for allocating resources and personnel toward developing resiliency in high school students.
Southeast Texans have endured many devastating disasters between 2005 and present day that have caused loss of life, loss of personal property and homelessness. These events have exacerbated anxiety and hopelessness in our community’s homes and schools for the entirety of our children’s lives.
When the transitional period of adolescence is coupled with a series of traumatic events, there is a high probability of an increase in psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. In 2021, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that nearly 44 percent of high school students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
In addition, the second leading cause of death among youth ages 12-24 is suicide, a national statistic warranting serious efforts to provide mental health resources and interventions within schools during the day.
Throughout the last decade, Samaritan Counseling Center of Southeast Texas experienced an increase in the number of parents seeking mental health assistance for adolescents. As this pattern continued, the leadership team decided to conduct a longitudinal study called The Wellness Program in three local high schools to determine the value and impact that education, prevention, and intervention has on the mental health needs of students.
Samaritan’s study screened for levels of depression, anxiety, stress, suicidal ideation, and social determinants. Each class that entered high school between 2019 and 2022 was screened first in their freshman year, and every year until graduation.
Samaritan provided on campus mental health support, counseling, and social services to the students identified by the screening. All participating students were provided education and information on general mental wellness, the importance of caring for your mental health, and basic coping skills.
In 2019, the first group of SETX freshmen were screened and 9 percent revealed they seriously considered attempting suicide in the month leading up to the screening. In 2022, this number dropped to 2 percent in the same group of students as they began their senior year.
The decrease in suicidal thoughts of students who received 4 years of on campus mental health support and education demonstrates the significance of school-based mental health programs.
There is an urgent and definitive demand for wellness intervention and education in Southeast Texas. Most students do not know how to cope with their feelings in a healthy way and many resort to contemplating or attempting suicide, as our data shows.
In the last 2 years alone, The Wellness Program identified 6 students in need of immediate psychiatric care due to an intent to harm themselves. These 6 young lives, in addition to the 554 other children who considered or attempted suicide, are vital pieces of our Southeast Texas community that could have been forever lost if not for Samaritan’s school-based mental health program.
The shifting paradigm in the way Southeast Texans support the mental health of our children has led to a cohort of young adults beginning their futures with the tools necessary to find success.
Through partnerships between school districts and local mental health facilities we can ensure resilience and strength for our children, the future of Southeast Texas.
For more information on how your school district can provide support to students, contact Samaritan Counseling Center’s Executive Director Robin McCutcheon at RobinM@sccset.org or Samaritan’s Community Engagement Coordinator Brooke Loupe at BrookeL@sccset.org. You can also contact our office at 409-727-6400.