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Report eyes COVID’s ‘huge impact’ on area youth

Posted 10/29/22

A county survey of local youngsters is giving county officials a look at the “huge impact” the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the mental health of students.

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Report eyes COVID’s ‘huge impact’ on area youth

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UTICA — A county survey of local youngsters is giving county officials a look at the “huge impact” the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the mental health and well-being of these junior high and high school students, according to an announcement Friday by Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr.

As part of his announcement, Picente released the results of Oneida County’s COVID-19 Student Survey, an assessment which was developed by the Oneida County Planning Department and SUNY Polytechnic Institute and which was administered as a modification of the Teen Assessment Survey (TAP) which occurs every four years, and was last done in 2019. 

Ten school districts participated, with 3,630 seventh-grade, ninth-grade and 11th-grade students being surveyed earlier this year.

“We know that COVID-19 changed the landscape for most students in one way or another,” Picente said. “Decisions were made with the best information available at the time, and now we need to understand that impact those decisions had and use that data to help us move forward effectively. This survey gave us the crucial knowledge to do just that.”

Some of the COVID-19-related findings highlighted in the 2022 TAP Report include:

  • Individuals identifying as LGBTQ+, female or as non-English speakers were among those most impacted by the pandemic and had the highest frequency of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs);
  • The most common challenges associated with virtual learning included: Loss of motivation and concentration; lack of direct access to teachers compared to in-person students; and lack of one-on-one educational assistance opportunities;
  • Throughout the pandemic, students experienced a variety of adverse behavioral changes such as: Chronic sadness and hopelessness; poor sleeping habits; and poor eating habits;
  • COVID-19 emotional resilience was linked to positive social relationships and emotional resources: Positive family relationship; reliable friend network; and reliable person/place in which to express worries, problems or concerns.

Compared to the 2019 TAP Survey, some of the following rates changed in 2022:

  • Youth homelessness decreased by 1.3%;
  • Respondents who seriously considered suicide decreased by 3%;
  • Respondents who thought about running away from home or hurting themselves on purpose decreased by 2.8% and 0.6% respectively;
  • Respondents who reported being cyberbullied increased by 2.8%;
  • Respondents who felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities increased by 5.3%.

“The concern and disruption the pandemic brought to the lives of our youth had a huge impact,” Picente said. “While many students showed strong resiliency, just as many have struggled with what they experienced. It is now up to all of us to utilize the knowledge we have gained to help them move past it and to better handle these issues in the future.”

The intended uses of Oneida County’s 2022 COVID-19 TAP survey are to:

  • Provide feedback to individual school districts regarding their strengths and areas for improvements for transitioning students to and from an online learning environment;
  • Develop recommendations for school districts on how to effectively utilize financial and human resources to address the report’s highlighted areas of concerns (i.e. cyberbullying, mental health, etc.);
  • Create guidance on existing best practice solutions for school districts to address areas of concern, as well as to improve services to vulnerable populations; and
  • Identify funding/grant opportunities that directly relate to the report’s highlighted areas of concerns for school districts. The report itself will serve as a substantial advantage to school districts when applying for competitive grants.

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