New Report Sheds Light on Students’ Mental Health during Pandemic
DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#MentalHealth–New data released by student safety company Gaggle shows a significant increase in threats of suicide, self-harm, and violence among the nation’s K-12 students during the pandemic. The report, entitled “Students Disrupted: One Year into the Pandemic,” is available here.
Throughout the first year of the pandemic (March 2020 – March 2021), Gaggle recorded a 31% overall increase in disturbing student content, including substantial increases across four incident categories:
- 76% increase in nudity and sexual content (from 5.0 to 8.9 incidents per 1,000 students)
- 46% increase in drugs and alcohol content (from 2.4 to 3.5 incidents per 1,000 students)
- 35% increase in threats of suicide and self-harm (from 16.0 to 21.7 incidents per 1,000 students)
- 23% increase in threats of violence against others (from 10.6 to 13.1 incidents per 1,000 students)
When comparing just the current academic year (August 2020 – March 2021) to the same time period in the 2019-20 school year, the findings are even more troubling. Threats of suicide or self-harm and threats of violence against others are both up 67% over the previous academic year; references to drugs and alcohol increased 98% and sexual content increased 143%.
Gaggle CEO Jeff Patterson said, “There’s no question our country is in the midst of a mental health crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Gaggle’s data shows a substantial jump in threats of self-harm and violence among K-12 students over the last year, underscoring the fact that young people are struggling. Adults need to pay close attention in order to provide much-needed support and resources to help keep our children safe.”
The report also highlights a surge in incidents among elementary-age schoolchildren; threats of suicide and self-harm among students in grades K-5 increased 191%, from 2.3 to 6.8 incidents per 1,000 students, and mentions of drugs and alcohol increased by 317% from March 2020 through March 2021. One bright spot in the data was a 4.6% decline in overall incidents of bullying and harassment across all grade levels, which dropped from 3.7 to 3.5 incidents per 1,000 students.
“The pandemic and related stay-at-home orders resulted in children across all grade levels being sent home with devices for virtual learning—many of whom had never had that kind of unfettered access to a device or the internet before,” said Heather Durkac, Vice President of Operations for Gaggle. “While less in-person contact meant fewer incidences of bullying, the rise in at-home devices opened the door for a lot of students to venture into some uncharted and dangerous territory. Kids are naturally going to be curious, and it’s no surprise our team saw a spike in flagged items. That’s why it’s so important to ensure appropriate adult supervision and guardrails to protect students from making mistakes or impulse decisions that can have major—and sometimes tragic—consequences.”
The report data is pulled through Gaggle’s student safety solution, which analyzes the use of online tools within Google’s G Suite, Microsoft Office 365, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and the Canvas learning management system for 5.2 million students across 1,500 school districts in the United States.
Gaggle’s machine learning technology watches for specific words and phrases that might indicate potentially harmful behavior. When a match surfaces, the content is evaluated by a trained safety professional to determine whether it is a threat and how much of a threat it poses. They then alert school officials to signs of student self-harm, depression, thoughts of suicide, substance abuse, cyberbullying, credible threats of violence against others, or other harmful situations.