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San Antonio starts mental health survey for teenagers to see what help is needed

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Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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Members of the San Antonio Youth Commission during Tuesday's press conference announcing the opening of the survey.

San Antonio is conducting a public survey about the mental health of teenagers in the area.

It’s designed for people ages 12 to 19, and any information submitted is anonymous. In its 27 pages, the survey asks general questions, including about gender identity, as well as whether issues like COVID-19, school or family life are affecting one's mental health and in what manner.

Project Worth and the San Antonio Youth Commission — a group of 22 high schoolers appointed by the mayor and members of city council — created the questions.

The young members of the commission and city staff launched the survey at City Hall on Tuesday. Michael Valdez, a student and the commission chair, said instruction on how to handle mental health is not prevalent in the school system.

“We have over 10 years of class time dedicated to math and sciences, which is great for analytical problem thinking,” he said. “But traditional schooling does not focus on the time to teach social and emotional learning skills, how to maintain healthy relationships, understand the diversity of our peers or how to take care of our own mental health.”

The city intends to use this information to guide city policy and direct funding into nonprofits it partners with to handle what issues young people are facing.

“We want to hear directly from people who are experiencing the issue or seeing it on the ground and we’re starting to do that via the survey,” said District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and the Department of Human Services are overseeing the survey.

“There’s several examples of where the city, through four or five different departments are working with youth, and making decisions about programming, there’s funding that becomes available,” said Human Services Director Melody Woosley.

The questions were born from the desire of the youth who designed the survey to do a check-in with their peers.

“Really just trying to figure out what would be most helpful for you, depending on where you’re at in the city, they also wanted to know what would be most helpful for those who are not in school right now,” said Jemm Morris, a management analyst with the Humans Services Department. “Because we do recognize a lot of people have started to leave school because of the burden of having to take care of family and work and just too many things on their plate.”

The survey issues a content warning on its opening page regarding the content and sensitive topics such as “drug use, self-harm and other mental health challenges that might trigger some uncomfortable thoughts or feelings." Teens are allowed to stop the survey at any time they feel like it.

The Teen Mental Health survey is on the city’s public input website and will be open until April 10.
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