MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCCO)– Fewer kids feel engaged in the classroom, believe their school provides a supportive place for learning, report good health, or feel safe.

That’s according to a new Minnesota Student Survey, a voluntary, anonymous questionnaire given to fifth through 11th grade students every three years.

One of the most shocking and sobering statistics in the survey deals with suicide. The data shows nearly 25% of high school juniors have considered taking their own life at some point. Nearly one in 10 report having tried to commit suicide.

“We know what to do — school-linked mental health, school support personnel — and yet there doesn’t seem to be the will to do it,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director with NAMI-MN, the state’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “How much longer do we need to wait? How much longer should we allow our students to be so distressed?”

Female students were nearly twice as likely as male students in all grades to report mental health, emotional or behavioral problems.

Anna Hovey has a daughter in high school right now.

“They have issues. They feel good or they feel not good. They have a lot of drama, but it’s okay. It’s normal because you are a teenager, you’re supposed to feel that way, right? Because you are all trying to figure out who you are,” said Hovey.

Michelle Basham isn’t surprised by the statistics.

She works with young people every day as the executive director of The Bridge for Youth, a nonprofit organization that provides runaway and homeless youth with a safe place to stay.

“We are seeing an increasing complications and [an] onset of mental health problems. We are seeing more peer-based bullying, more online bullying, more in-person bullying. Kids go to school and this happens and they don’t want to go back,” said Basham.

Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker called some of the data in this report “concerning” in a written statement, which read:

“No matter what is happening in students’ lives outside of school, we must make sure that they feel supported, safe, and welcomed when they’re in the classroom so they can succeed academically. My fellow commissioners and I will be working with our school communities so we can better meet the needs of all of our students.”

This questionnaire also showed 25% of 11th graders say they’ve used an e-cigarette in the last month.

More than 190,000 students participated in the survey.

Mary McGuire

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