Students, parents react to failing report card on children's health in North Carolina

Cindy Bae Image
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Students, parents react to NC report card on children's health
For millions of students nationwide, there's a troubling trend in mental health that some say existed before the pandemic.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Orange County high school student Makayla Davis is thankful for the support system she has.

"When I'm really stressed because I juggle being a student-athlete and school ... she helps out a lot and it's really great," Davis said about her mother.

But for millions of students nationwide, there's a troubling trend in mental health that some say existed before the pandemic.

Report card: NC gets failing grades on children's health

"A lot of teens' mental health is overlooked," Davis said. "I think that mental health is a really important thing that schools needs to focus on more."

Kayla Camp, who's worked in school settings in Indiana, she's seen firsthand the change in student behavior.

"Anxiety, depression, those are pretty big among the middle schoolers," Camp said.

The North Carolina Child Health Report Card released on Tuesday revealed the state is failing in several areas, including mental and school health.

More than one in five high school students report they have seriously considered suicide, and child deaths involving a firearm rose more than 40% from 2019 to 2021, according to the report.

"We need to think about the common-sense approaches, especially safe storage, is incredibly important if you have a youth in crisis, making sure they don't have access to a lethal mean," state health director Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson said.

Tilson said child and youth mental health has been worsening, and a state improvement plan is in the works.

"Behavioral health and resiliency is No. 1 in our priority in thinking through the recovery of the tail of the pandemic," Tilson said. "Strong and inclusive workforce, and child and family well-being as well. So these are our three main areas."

Meanwhile, school districts like Orange County held a retreat on Tuesday to discuss students' well-being in today's school climate and culture.

"We know that a profound sense of belonging is required for all students and staff to thrive," chief public information officer Kevin Smith said. "We have to keep moving the needle on improving culture and climate in our schools."

Smith detailed some of their strategies to support students, including in-person roundtables for staff to "listen and learn," an important strategy for parents like Camp.

"Meeting them where they're at," Camp said. "I think a lot of times we're frustrated, we want them to jump back into pre-pandemic skills, but I think we just have to meet them where they're at because they missed a lot."