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Survey assesses student mental health needs in Detroit schools


“We believe that those best positioned to sustainably support the healthy growth and development of young people in any community are the very individuals living and working alongside those youth, particularly adults working in schools who are trusted by, and committed to, their students,” said Elizabeth Koschmann, Ph.D., TRAILS program director and an assistant research scientist in the Department of Psychiatry at Michigan Medicine. 

“By equipping schools to provide evidence-based mental health services, students impacted by mental illness, trauma exposure or environmental stressors will be more likely to develop coping strategies that will lead to better school engagement and performance and improved mental health across the lifespan.”

Also core to the TRAILS model is acknowledgement of the role racism plays in driving inequities in mental health and health care access. For many BIPOC, a history of medical racism combined with pervasive social stigma create additional barriers to mental health help-seeking and treatment beyond those that are more logistical, such as difficulty scheduling or high costs. 

SEE ALSO: Fewer Deaths Among Adults Who Got Extra Support as Suicidal Teens

“Efforts to address mental health needs in DPSCD must include work to eradicate these more systemic barriers,” Koschmann said.

Long term, the U-M and DPSCD partnership is anticipated to help students participate more meaningfully in school, improve attendance and academic performance, engage in fewer noncompliant and high-risk behaviors, remain in school longer, and ultimately benefit more fully and equitably from the academic opportunities available to them in their Detroit schools.

TRAILS acknowledges the many organizations that funded this work: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, The Children’s Foundation, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Detroit Medical Center Foundation, Ethel & James Flinn Foundation, George B. Storer Fund at The Miami Foundation, The Jewish Fund, Metro Health Foundation, Michael & Betsy Mackey Family, Michigan Health Endowment Fund, National Institute of Mental Health, Prosper Road Foundation, Susan M. Wellman Family Fund, U.S. Department of Education, and the U-M Department of Psychiatry.

The report does not include the experiences of students who declined to participate or who were absent during the survey window. DPSCD, TRAILS and the Youth Policy Lab acknowledge that those are likely some of the students at highest risk and that there’s an underrepresentation in the needs assessment of students about whom experts might be most concerned.

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