Research and Resources, Schools and Communities, April 2012
Tools & Resources
- TeenScreen in Schools & Communities Video Series: Your colleagues share their challenges and discuss what works
- TeenScreen Webinar: headspace: What can we learn from Australia’s mental health success?, April 26, 1 pm – 2 pm ET
- Partner Presentation – the updated Partner Presentation features up-to-date statistics and TeenScreen program information
Spotlight: Research & Trends
Non-Suicidal Self-Injury & the Internet: What School Professionals Need to Know
Internet content on non-suicidal self injury (NSSI) is prolific, and some can be troubling and potentially dangerous, according to a new study published in School Mental Health.
In their investigation of the scope and nature of NSSI activity in the digital realm, researchers at McGill University went beyond formal information websites to assess interactivity across a range of popular platforms, including social networking sites, YouTube and Facebook. A Google search of “self injury” and “self-harm” on one day in 2011 yielded nearly 2.5 million results. Searches also identified more than 2,200 videos on YouTube and 41 NSSI-related groups on Facebook and MySpace with a combined total of more than 7,500 members.
The quality, validity and safety of the sites varied widely. Two peer-driven websites – Self-injury and Psyke – provided reliable educational information on self-injury and the links between NSSI and mental illness. However, researchers expressed concern that Psyke permitted postings of video and photos of self-injury with only a small disclaimer. This lack of disclaimer was also found on Facebook and MySpace groups. However, researchers found the tone of these social sites to be either neutral or anti-NSSI.
Researchers voiced concern with YouTube. One out of five sites viewed included graphic video depictions of self-injury without trigger warnings or disclaimers, which they said could have a negative impact on vulnerable young people. The researchers recommend that school mental health professionals review and assess social networking and video-sharing sites to gain a clearer picture of NSSI-related media accessed by adolescents. They also suggest that additional research study the impact of graphic self-injury video on youth.
LGBT Youth and Suicide: Findings Cite Increased Risks, Protective Factors
More than one-third (37.4%) of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth have had thoughts of suicide and 15% have engaged in some form of self-harm, according to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Researchers Richard Liu, PhD and Brian Mustanski, PhD, followed 246 LGBT young people ages 16-20 over five time points at six-month intervals from 2007 to 2011 to determine both the risk and protector factors for suicidal ideation and self-harm in this population. Participants completed a baseline assessment of suicide attempt history, gender non-conformity, impulsivity and sensation-seeking. In follow-up, participants completed screening questionnaires on suicidal ideation, hopelessness, social support and victimization.
In assessing the predictors of suicidal ideation and self-harm, researchers found that previous suicide attempt, impulsivity, LGBT victimization and low social support increased risk. After suicidal attempt history, LGBT victimization predicted a 2.5-fold increase in risk of ideation and self-harm. Gender non-conformity, female gender, sensation-seeking and hopelessness increased risk of self-harm.
Citing its protective effects, the researchers emphasized that school professionals should focus on enhancing social support networks for LGBT youth. In view of the increased risk from impulsivity in suicidal ideation and sensation-seeking, they also advise greater parental supervision as a way to limit opportunities for youth to engage in self-harm.
Immigrant Youth and Bullying: Unique Concerns, Heightened Risk
Youth born outside the U.S. or born into immigrant families, are more likely to be the victim of bullying as compared with youth born in the U.S., according to new research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Researchers Lisa Hepburn, PhD, Deborah Azreal, PhD, and colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health, reviewed a random sample from the 2008 Boston Youth Survey, a biennial survey of students from traditional public high schools in Boston. Thirty-one percent of students were born outside the U.S., and 43% reported that English was not the primary household language. Researchers used a five-question screen to identify victims of bullying and an additional two questions to assess perpetration. Suicidality and depressive symptoms were measured with a Modified Depression Scale.
While there was no significant differences in bullying behaviors by race, ethnicity or primary household language, researchers did find that youth born outside the U.S. were more likely to be the victim than the perpetrator. The impact of bullying on suicidal ideation and suicide attempts did not vary by either individual or household immigrant status or by gender.
Citing previous studies, the researchers noted that immigrant students may face greater stress related to cultural assimilation, and their differences may increase their risk of being victimized. Given the evidence linking bullying with suicidality, they recommend that school health professionals in urban environments evaluate immigrant youth for bullying behavior to better determine suicide risk.
Making Teen Mental Health a Priority: Schools and Communities Saving Lives
For school psychologist Jamie Ibarra, a screening questionnaire offers powerful leverage when seeking referrals for students in need
At least three times a week, Jaime Ibarra, school psychologist with the Northampton County, Virginia school district gets a call from a fellow counselor or teacher concerned that a student may be suicidal. She’s making worrying comments; his demeanor is troubling. Can he talk to the student to find out what might be going on?
When Ibarra meets with teens, he typically combines a thoughtful dialogue with a call to the parents for consent to offer a mental health screening. They almost always agree.
“Most of the teens will tell you they don’t have a plan,” he said. “But this is a stressful environment. There is a lot of poverty around here and not a lot of jobs. Life for these kids and their families can be difficult.”
Located along the Chesapeake Bay, Northampton County is on the southern tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The peninsula community is pristine and beautiful, but also isolated, with pockets of economic distress. The district includes 1,800 students with two elementary schools and one high school for grades seven through 12. He is the district psychologist, working with four counselors.
Even when suicidality is not the immediate issue, screening gives Ibarra important information on depression, anxiety and other possible mental health disorders. It also gives him leverage in dealing with the region’s scant resources, long wait times, and teens in need of immediate referral. Care is most often provided through the state-funded Eastern Shore Community Services Board. Services are offered on a sliding scale, but wait times can be as long as two months. “Some students can’t wait that long,” he said. “Screening gives me something else to take to the community services board. It supports what I am saying about the teen.”
While he looks forward to securing future funding to introduce universal screening in the ninth grade, TeenScreen’s free resources help him support adolescent mental health through challenging times.
“You can make great use of the screening resources, even if you don’t have the funding you need for a more comprehensive program,” he said. “I’ve made it part of my tool kit.”
Feature Resources: Fact Sheets Highlight Key Issues for Schools
Our Youth Mental Health and Academic Achievement fact sheet gives a clear picture of the impact of adolescent mental health problems on a student’s academic trajectory – including the benefits of identification and treatment.
Where does your state stand on issues of teen mental health? And what is the impact on academic achievement? Our State Fact Sheets provide the latest statistics on the impact of mental health disorders on adolescents, teen suicide, and mental health screening statistics.