Teenagers in Northwest Louisiana face social and emotional challenges in a school setting, yet few seek professional support at school. As indicated by more than 5,000 high school students surveyed from Caddo Schools by the Step Forward Teen Advisory Committee, 73 % of students encounter challenges such as stress, anxiety, depression, issues with body image, and thoughts of self-harm within a school setting. Though counselors are provided on campus to help students combat these issues, majority of students confide in a friend, while less than ten percent of students confide in school counselors.
On May 1st, 2020, using a virtual format, the Teen Advisory Committee (TAC) discussed the mental wellness survey results with over 50 high school students from Bossier and Caddo Parishes at the NWLA Teen Summit on Mental Wellness. Following the discussion, students separated into small groups to create policy recommendations that influence the narrative around teen mental wellness for Bossier and Caddo School districts. Collaboratively, the students concluded the following recommendations:
- Each school should differentiate the procedures for students to contact counselors with academic needs and for students to contact counselors with emotional needs.
- Schools should provide a virtual form to schedule appointment times with counselors to quicken the response time and to provide anonymity within the student body when seeking help.
- Counselors should be required to visit with the student body outside of office visitations, weekly.
- Schools should work to establish a system where the same counselor follows the student from ninth to twelfth grade.
- Each school should develop prevention strategies executed on school campuses that present mental wellness.
- The current method of teacher and administrator training on mental health challenges should be expanded to include actionable response strategies. The recommendation also includes schools adopting active learning approaches.
- Faculty should receive training in how to foster open dialogue, cultivate safe spaces and advise students through one-on-one discussions addressing a variety of topics ranging from loneliness and anxiety to body issues and self-harm.
- Health class teachers should expand instruction of mental health information to include stress-relief efforts within the classroom.
These policy recommendations were shared with Superintendent Dr. Lamar Goree and Superintendent Mitch Downey. At a news conference held on May 18th by TAC, both superintendents responded that they are conferring with their leadership teams to consider implementation.
Bezos Family Foundation
Inner Quality Services LLC
Coldwell Banker Gosslee
International Youth Foundation
Louisiana Tech University
City of Shreveport Community Development
Community Foundation of North Louisiana
Shreveport-Bossier Tourist Bureau
Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce
NWLA Behavioral Health Advisory Council
LSUHS School of Medicine- Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine