Somerville Public Schools Look at COVID’s Emotional Impact on Students

March 1st, 2022 | News

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, children and adolescents across the country have felt a decline in their mental health and social-emotional wellness. Earlier this year, Somerville’s Health and Human Services Department commissioned an independent survey to assess the health, wellness, and behaviors of middle and high school students in the Somerville. Massachusetts,  public schools.

In partnership with Somerville public schools, we conducted a shortened version of the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (i.e., Pulse Check) which included a series of questions related to factors that contribute to the leading causes of illness, death, and disability among youth and young adults. This year, JSI expanded the mental health and social-emotional wellness sections of the survey to give students the opportunity to better express challenges they’ve faced as a result of the pandemic.  JSI surveyed more than 1,400 Somerville public school students in grades 7-12.

The Somerville public schools “Pulse Check” is part of a larger JSI YRBS effort to help school districts better understand the needs of their students. JSI collaborated with teachers, principals, and health and wellness departments to create a survey instrument that allows them to compare their district’s data to state and national data, as well as hone in on topics of specific importance to the district.

Highlights from the survey include:

  • While the majority of students did not experience adverse financial or health-related effects of COVID-19, about one in five middle or high school students in the Somerville public schools reported having a family member or close friend who died from the disease.
  • More than half of high school students and almost one-quarter of middle school students in SPS reported that they struggled with their mental health “most of the time” or “always” during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Gender-queer students were significantly more likely to report struggling with their mental health, and rates also were higher among multi-racial students.
  • Among high school students, females were more than three times more likely to report struggling with their mental health compared to males.
  • More than three-quarters of SPS students reported having an adult outside of school as part of their support network and more than half reported having a teacher or adult at school.

Considering the survey results, the Somerville School Committee launched the “Together” campaign, aimed at bringing greater attention to the challenges facing Somerville students. The Somerville school district will continue to use the data collected to address the challenges their student’s face.

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