mental health

Marin students present mental health research at conference

Marin students present mental health research at conference
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Members of a team of Marin students are presenting the findings this week at a conference hosted by a Carmel-based nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness of youth mental health.

Lori Butterworth, CEO of AIM Youth Mental Health, the conference organizer, said peer-to-peer research helps educators and parents better understand the impact of COVID-19 on youth mental health. Last year, the organization conducted a pilot study in Monterey County that had many of the same results as in Marin.

“One thing the student researchers found was that the relationship between students and their teachers had diminished significantly during COVID,” Butterworth said.

Six Marin students spent more than 100 hours of community service earlier this year designing, distributing and analyzing the study. The team administered the 10-15 minute survey between February 17 and March 13 via word of mouth, text messages and social media. A total of 234 young sailors from private and public schools responded to the survey.

The results were to be presented at the Monterey conference on Thursday, April 20.

Survey results revealed that at least 90% of high school students in Marin report feeling anxious and about 80% report feeling depressed.

It also revealed that 69% of survey respondents had low self-esteem, 69% had unmanageable stress levels, 67% had eating disorders, and 59% had witnessed self-harm or self-harm by their peers.

The findings, particularly those on self-harm, “incredibly shocked us that so many of the students were stressed to such a degree,” survey team member Barry Liu, a student at the University, said on Wednesday. ninth grader at Branson School in Ross, in an email.

“This reinforces the urgency of the youth mental health crisis and calls for urgent action by all members of our community,” Liu said.

“The survey results have just shown us that there is a real need to listen to young people,” said Alejandra Sanchez Lazaro, a senior student at San Domenico School in San Anselmo and a member of the team of research.

“When it comes to mental health, there’s a real need to educate adults who haven’t grown up around this kind of conversation,” she added.

Another member of the team, Mariana Reyes, also a senior student at San Domenico, accepted.

“A lot of teenagers said they’d rather talk to no one but their parents,” she said. “A lot of kids prefer to talk to a friend or no one at all.”

The other three student researchers were Dylan Youman and Paola Flores-Fuentes, both 12th graders at San Domenico, and Caroline Friend, an 11th grader at Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield.

Due to remote learning, many students weren’t able to bond with teachers — and some didn’t even know who their teachers were, Butterworth said.

“It was really disturbing – that there wasn’t that trust factor with the teachers that they had seen in the past,” she said. “We know at AIM that the number one key factor in youth mental health is a trusted adult.”

As with Marin, other findings from the Monterey survey were “shocking, alarming,” Butterworth said.

“The suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression were alarming,” she said. “We had about 96% of students with anxiety in their freshman year.”

This year, AIM decided to expand the study to Marin with the help of Pamela Clemens, a retired teacher from Monterey who lives in Tiburon and is the Northern California regional director for the group.

In Marin, about 81% of students surveyed, all anonymous, were from Marin’s private and parochial high schools San Domenico, Marin Catholic, Branson and Marin Academy and The Marin School.

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