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Duval Students Self-Report Higher Than Average Suicide Attempts, Feeling Hopeless

Credit wired_gr / Flickr

Duval County high-school students are reporting higher-than-average rates of suicide attempts and feelings of hopelessness.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti addressed the report at Tuesday’s board meeting in a presentation. He said the district will be advocating for more mental health funding, and plans to expand services.

According to his presentation, last year the district received 1,087 calls to its crisis hotline, and half were suicidal or homicidal threats, while 356 were from students unwilling or unable to calmly or rationally talk.

Credit Duval County Public Schools

In last year’s anonymous youth risk behavior survey, nearly a third of Duval high schoolers said they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row. Almost one in five said they’d considered suicide. About 20 percent said they’d made a plan to commit suicide, while about 13 percent of respondents in the national survey answered they’d made a suicide plan.

Roughly 19 percent of Duval respondents said they’d actually attempted suicide. That’s more than twice the national average for attempts among high schoolers in the survey.

When Duval middle school students answered the survey, 27 percent said they’d thought about killing themselves and 11 percent said they have tried.

Credit Duval County Public Schools

Vitti said Duval is training teachers, using programs like Mental Health First Aid, to recognize and help students who are experiencing mental-health challenges. Schools are also referring students for services and offering mentoring.

He said the district should encourage talking about mental health to reduce stigma.

Duval has “full service schools” which offer students and families services like counseling and parenting help, mentoring and health services. Vitti said the district needs to offer those full services in more schools.

Vitti's presentation that said since Florida is ranked 49thfor mental health funding it’s important the district advocate for increased funding for suicide prevention and treatment of mental health issues.

Photo: "School Lockers" used under  Creative Commons.

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Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride.

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.