The first look inside student mental health in Virginia's Fairfax County Public Schools since COVID-19 gave a dismal glimpse into the detrimental effects pandemic-era policies had on student mental health.
"In 2021, the rates of feeling persistent sadness or hopelessness among Fairfax County youth were highest in the past 10 years," the Fairfax County Youth Survey report said.
"More than 41% (41.6%) of 12th grade students reported such feelings, as compared to 35.0% of 8th grade students. Overall, the percentage of students reporting this level of sadness was about 8 percentage points higher than in 2019 (29.9%), reaching the highest point in the past 10 years."
The Fairfax County Youth Survey showed the most significant numbers of students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 reported more depression than at any other time in the last decade, although numbers are still lingering lower than the national average.
Local news outlet FFXNow highlighted the findings in a report Tuesday, also garnering the attention of the Fairfax County Parents Association, who tweeted the article Thursday.
"Recently released survey of 30,000+ FCPS students, from last year, finds that after more than a year of isolation (due to the decision to close schools & enforce isolating protocols) students are more depressed than at any other time in the past decade," the organization wrote.
"The survey found that disadvantaged students were the most negatively impacted & that child abuse increased during the school shutdown period. This is the first year since the shutdowns that the survey was offered (it wasn't conducted during the 2020-2021 school year)," they added in a separate tweet, pointing to findings that Hispanic, female, and LGBTQ+ students were more susceptible to depression.
The nonpartisan parents organization has called out pandemic policy mistakes, including school closures which sent shockwaves through school systems across the nation and disrupted students' wellbeing in other areas.
The Fairfax County report affirmed the claims made by multiple parent groups that school closures and quarantine policies had negative effects on public schoolchildren.
"The greatest increase was observed in the percentage of students with persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Overall, almost two-fifths of the students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade (38.1%) reported feeling so sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row in the past year that they stopped doing some usual activities."
Other statistics pointed to problems at home, according to FFXNews, including increases in bullying and physical abuse from parents and other family members, as well as food insecurities in their households.
According to the outlet, 17% of students surveyed in Fairfax County's report said they had suicidal thoughts and 6% reported suicide attempts during the 2021 school year.