The Montana Office of Public Instruction recently released the results of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Over 94% of Montana middle schools and high schools participated. The biennial survey assists educators and health professionals in determining the prevalence of health-risk behaviors. Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen says all of the data was self-reported by Montana students.

“In high school, 37% of our students are saying they feel sad or hopeless for more than two weeks in a row,” Arntzen said. “In middle school, it is 31%. Something is going on right now within the culture of Montana. There is a sense of lack of bright future. We wouldn’t want hopelessness to turn into suicide.”

The OPI is professionally developing teachers to recognize a behavior that might lead to some sort of harm to a student. According to Arntzen, it is crucial that educators get to know their students.

“We need to make sure that we first reflect on who is sitting in our seats and who are we teaching,” Arntzen said. “That is something that is very challenging. Understanding the whole child, making sure that we understand who they are, will lead that teacher to be more successful in that classroom”

Fewer Montana students reported risky driving behaviors, physical fighting, and being bullied on school property. Fewer students are smoking cigarettes and cigars, but more students reported using electronic vapor products. Arntzen urges schools, communities, and parents to use this information to serve the health, well-being, and success of all of our students.