New data shows high presence of trauma and suicidal ideation in students seeking mental health services

Ryan Fitzmaurice

New data revealed in a report made to the Big Horn County School District No. 2 Board meeting last week shows a need to continue making mental health a focus in local schools.
The data, provided by Community Mental Health Project Coordinator Krystal Crosby, details mostly students but also staff and family members who were provided school-based mental health services funded by the Wyoming Department of Education Project Aware program. The program provides school-based mental health services with parental consent, substance abuse education, violence and bullying prevention education and family engagement at no cost to the student or their family.
According to the data, which details statistics from all four districts within Big Horn County, there were 193 referrals for mental health services within the school districts. Of those referrals, 42 are still receiving services with 88 receiving services in the past and now discharged. The data also shows that 63 referred refused services, amounting to 32 percent of total referrals. Crosby said that rate is standard when compared to the other Wyoming Aware programs throughout the state.
Of the 130 served, 32 percent of clients identified that they have had a suicide plan or have had suicidal ideations within the past six months. A further 15 percent of clients stated that they have self-harmed in the past six months. Most significantly, 76 percent have been through a trauma related experience.
The top five primary diagnoses made among clients, in order, are adjustment disorders, which is a preliminary diagnosis with a suspicion of anxiety or depression, then major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and finally ADHD.
Crosby said the trauma experience reported by the 76 percent of students who have received services can consist of a large array of negative experiences, such as a vehicle accident, domestic abuse, parents getting a divorce or having to move.
“Please understand this is a snapshot of a portion of students and is not a representation of the student population as a whole,” Crosby said. “But it does indicate a high presence of trauma response.”
Just as concerning to Crosby is the 32 percent reporting rate of a suicide plan or suicidal ideation. That’s one out of three students receiving services, and Crosby said it is almost certainly indicative of more students silently struggling.
“These are only the students that are being served and that we are aware of,” Crosby said. “A lot of these referrals come from behavioral issues. There are other students falling under the radar because they aren’t showing behavioral problems. They haven’t communicated their feelings with someone else. They are suffering silently.”
Crosby said the high rate of trauma experiences and suicidal ideation among students being served shows a need for mental health services in a culture that can continue to be resistant to them. The 32 percent denial rate of services shows that stigma, Crosby said.
“People don’t always think it’s beneficial and worth their time,” Cosby said. “But, the high percentage of trauma response shows the need for that treatment. These are things we can be mindful and considerate of, and there are ways that we can help.”