In April, the CDC published a report on youth mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. The statistics are grim.

But the survey also offers hope. Teens who feel connected at school report much lower rates of poor mental health. And schools can play an important role in supporting students’ mental health. Erika’s Lighthouse is here to help you implement school wide programming that encourages good mental health.

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CDC finding: Poor mental health very common among high school students

“Approximately one in three high school students experienced poor mental health (most of the time or always) during the COVID-19 pandemic (37.1%) and during the past 30 days (31.1%)”

Erika’s Lighthouse is a Tier 1 intervention that reaches ALL students

Our programs use an upstream approach. So Erika’s Lighthouse is able to reach more students reporting poor mental health. The programs are foundational, Tier I universal programs that reach every student, not just those who have already been receiving services.

CDC finding: High rates of suicidal ideation

“During the 12 months before the survey, 19.9% of students had seriously considered attempting suicide, and 9.0% had attempted suicide.”

Erika’s Lighthouse believes that depression education is suicide prevention

With early identification and intervention, we can identify more struggling students versus traditional suicide prevention programming. We know that 90-98% of all youth suicides involve a mental illness. The most common being depression. Further, we know that 80% of young people with depression will go unrecognized. By implementing depression education for all students, we can decrease stigma, and increase awareness and help-seeking behaviors.

CDC finding: Poor mental health affects students of all races and ethnicities. LGBTQ+ students are affected more often.

“Although differences by race and ethnicity were detected for each of these three variables, no consistent patterns were found. The prevalence of poor mental health during the pandemic was higher among gay, lesbian, or bisexual students and other or questioning students than among heterosexual students.”

Erika’s Lighthouse programs feature real teens from diverse backgrounds

Our programs are teen-oriented and highlight real stories from real teens. The videos are not scripted and the students are not actors. This allows for a peer-to-peer approach that focuses on connecting with the students in the classroom. The diversity and representation demonstrated throughout the program allows young people the opportunity to connect with someone like them.

CDC finding: Today’s stressors may have long-term consequences

“Evidence from previous outbreaks suggests that the pandemic might have long-term consequences for youth mental health and well-being and be associated with potential increases in youth depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which underscores the urgent need to address mental health needs among youths.”

Erika’s Lighthouse programs teach life-long skills

Erika’s Lighthouse programs offer a continuum from encouraging good mental health, to educating students on the signs and symptoms of depression, to a focus on suicide prevention – promoting early identification and intervention. The life skills students are learning in our programs lead to life-long self-advocacy in and outside the classroom.

CDC finding: Schoolwide programs can create a positive school climate for mental health

“To foster school connectedness and promote positive school climates, school districts can implement schoolwide programs such as those focused on social and emotional learning, professional development for staff to improve classroom management, and strategies to foster relationships between students, their families, and school staff.”

Erika’s Lighthouse offers programs for all members of the school community

Our programming is not stand alone. We offer wraparound programming that addresses all four pillars of an inclusive school community:

  • classroom education
  • teen empowerment
  • family engagement
  • school policy and staff training.

Our programs teach students how to advocate for themselves and for their peers. Combined with our professional development programs for staff, everyone within the school community can have a common language around mental health.

CDC finding: Poor mental health rates are lower among students with close connections at school

“Compared with those who did not feel close to persons at school, students who felt close to persons at school had a significantly lower prevalence of poor mental health during the pandemic (28.4% versus 45.2%) and during the past 30 days (23.5% versus 37.8%), persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness (35.4% versus 52.9%), having seriously considered attempting suicide (14.0% versus 25.6%), and having attempted suicide (5.8% versus 11.9%).”

Erika’s Lighthouse can help create connections

Our programs firmly center on the student, allowing teens to find their voices and speak up about mental health. By building up students in their school, teens have the ability to share their knowledge with the community around them. As a result, they can create a whole school and whole community that supports their physical and mental health.

CDC finding: Less than half of students have a close connection at school

“At the time of the survey, 46.6% of students strongly agreed or agreed that they felt close to persons at school.” “Efforts to improve connectedness to schools, peers, and family are critical to protecting the mental health and well-being of youths, particularly in the context of ongoing pandemic-related stressors.”

Erika’s Lighthouse programs teach students how to reach out

Our programs use a skills-based approach. For example, they give students the opportunity to practice reaching out for help to a trusted adult. Additionally, our staff training teaches school staff what to do if they are a student’s trusted adult. This reinforces school connectedness from multiple angles.

CDC finding: Comprehensive approaches lead to better mental health

“Comprehensive approaches that promote:

  • help-seeking behaviors
  • connections to trusted adults and supportive peers
  • engagement in community activities

have been shown to have many benefits including improved feelings of connectedness, better mental health, reduced risk for suicide, reduced prevalence of health risk behaviors, and better academic achievement.”

Erika’s Lighthouse has tools to promote help-seeking and connections

When students can identify where to seek help in school, they feel safe and connected. The Erika’s Lighthouse classroom program utilizes Self-Referral Cards. The cards offer students the opportunity to recognize that they might need to speak with someone, and indicate that they’d like to be connected to a health service provider. 

Another resource, our Teen Empowerment Clubs, offer teens the structure and support to take a leadership role in their school around mental health.

CDC finding: Connectedness within the family is important

“In addition to engaging with their child’s school, parents and caregivers can build relationships with their child through open discussions and shared activities.”

Erika’s Lighthouse has resources for schools to engage families

We have designed information, resources, and workshops to equip school communities to better interact with families around depression and mental health. Our parent handbook is a parent-to-parent guide that contains helpful, practical ideas – ideas that we hope will be of some help to families in a difficult time.