Transcript: Perspectives on student mental well-being: Life satisfaction data from the California Healthy Kids Survey
Rebeca Cerna: On behalf of the California Center for School Climate (CCSC), I would like to welcome you to our webinar today on Perspectives on Student Wellbeing: Life Satisfaction Data from the California Healthy Kids Survey. Today’s session is a collaboration from the California Center for School Climate, the California Department of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara, and WestEd. My name is Rebeca Cerna, and I’m the Director of the California Center for School Climate. I will be your moderator for today’s session. For our session today, we will be using a Linktree that includes links to everything that will be mentioned during the session. Today we will be reviewing data from the new life satisfaction and emotional distress items from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), and we will discuss the importance of assessing student wellbeing and how to best interpret these results. So first I will pass it to Hilva Chan for a welcome.
Hilva Chan: Thanks, Rebeca. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Hilva Chan. I’m an Education Programs Consultant with the CDE. On behalf of the CDE, I’d like to welcome you all to today’s session on examining the new life satisfaction data from the CHKS in supporting student mental health. So mental health is one of the top priorities of the state superintendent, and the CDE has been partnering with WestEd and UC Santa Barbara for many years to develop and expand mental health indicators to help assess and inform policies and interventions to support student mental wellness. We are so excited today because this session would really enrich our understanding on this very important topic. Instead of looking at mental health with more of a deficit perspective about students having some issues such as emotional distress or suicide ideation, we’re going to approach from a different angle, a more well-rounded, complete mental health perspective. So we hope today’s session will really support you in your work in supporting your students. Thank you for what you do every day and thanks for joining us. Back to you, Rebeca.
Rebeca Cerna: Thank you, Hilva. I wanted to mention a quick note about CCSC. It’s an initiative of the California Department of Education that is led by WestEd, and we provide free support and trainings on school climate and data use to local education agencies across the state. CCSC offers several types of supports, including data use webinars like this one, peer learning exchanges around specific topics, and professional learning supports. Our website can be found on the Linktree that’s being shared, that has been shared in the chat, and we invite you to visit us at ccsc.wested.org to explore further supports that we offer.
We have a wonderful team lined up for today’s session. Erin Dowdy is a Professor of Counseling and Clinical and School Psychology at UCSB. And Michael Furlong is a Research and Distinguished Professor from UC Santa Barbara as well, in the School of Psychology. We also have Tom Hanson, Senior Managing Director at WestEd and also the Director of the Cal Schools Survey System. And with that, I’m going to pass it to our first speaker, Michael Furlong, to get us started.
Michael Furlong: I really am excited to be here, and I appreciate and want to thank Hilva and Tom, on behalf of Erin and myself, for the opportunity to contribute on the ongoing development enhancement of the Healthy Kids Survey. I’m not sure we fully appreciate it, I think we do, but just to remind us all that the Healthy Kids Survey is really a point of pride for California. It’s the oldest and largest student wellness survey in the United States and it sets a standard, I think, for the country. And grounded in the work that Bonnie Bernard provided for us in California back in the 1990s before resilience was a popular topic, her leadership brought the Healthy Kids Survey in, with Tom and Greg and others at the time, to focus on students’ assets and the school conditions contributing to their positive development. So today Erin and I are excited to share information with you about new, some new, mental health and wellness items that have been added to the Healthy Kids Survey that build upon that focus on resilience and wellbeing.
And our hope is that these items, which are in your core module now, will provide a new positive lens with which to understand students’ social emotional health and wellbeing, so expanding our lens, if you will, to see how the students are doing. So just to get us started, so the first, just to give you a quick overview so you know what we’re going to be talking about, 10 items were added to the Healthy Kids Survey, five focus on students’ life satisfaction, which are unique, there’s not another survey like this that I think has that, and the other five focus on students’ recent emotional distress. But to kind of get us started, you probably might be saying, “Well, I kind of get the emotional distress part. We’ve often had those types of items, but what about life satisfaction?”
So to get started, just to get you thinking about what is life satisfaction in the first place, what you have up there is a life satisfaction measure that’s used in some of the international studies. When you hear about people from Denmark being so happy, the people in the Scandinavian countries are so happy, but people from Costa Rica are also very happy, so there’s other places in the country, and Ecuador interestingly, well, this is the scale that they often use in that measure. So what I want to invite you to do now, just to get into the mindset about life satisfaction, is for yourself to answer these five questions. And this is an example of what the students are somewhat experiencing when they take the survey, they’re being presented items and asked to think about their life, so I’ll invite you to do that.
The point here is not just to find out your life’s satisfaction right now, but to stop and think about as you answer these questions, what kind of comes to your mind. What parts of your life… how do you evaluate whether you’re satisfied with your life or not? Do you weigh each item or area that you’re thinking about the same? Now if you could just take a minute, and you can do that, you can answer them from one to seven and you can see the scale there on the side. But the focus here is more on to try to get a sense of, well, when the students are reading some items like this and answering it, what might be going on in their mind, just to get in their mindset. I’ll just take one minute to do that. Again, the point here is try to get a sense of what students might be thinking and how they answer these questions. If you’re curious, all they do when they actually score this, is they actually just have a scale like … Oops, sorry, got to go back.They have a scale like this and they actually don’t have norms that they put it at. It’s just if people say they’re satisfied, like in these national studies, they just say they’re happy is basically what they’re doing on this. The students aren’t doing this particular scale, but we’ll get into that.
So further, what we’ll talk about today is we’ll talk about those 10 items and show you what they are, the life satisfaction scale, an emotional distress scale. We’ll show you how the items are scored. Tom will later show you how that information is actually in your dashboard, so you can actually do a deeper dive to try to understand the characteristics of the students who are saying they’re higher in life satisfaction or lower. We’ll show you some responses of over half a million California students. So we have a good database to kind of get an idea of how students in California are responding to this.
We’ll give you a few interpretation considerations with a foreshadowing back to the future about something that’s going to be coming next year that will give you even a deeper understanding of how students might be responding to these items. And Erin will give us a foreshadow of some application considerations, because when we think about this, the goal, what we have here of adding these items is not just to get students to answer satisfied or dissatisfied, the real goal is to help them have a life that’s actually satisfying. We want students to have good experiences in life and properly come to the conclusion that, yeah, things are okay, my life’s going okay. So the most important part is how do we help students come to view their life in this way? In the beginning, there was light and there were just the two CDC items. For many years all you had to kind of judge the mental health and wellbeing of the students’ health were these two items, the sadness items, the chronic sadness items, and the suicide item that are in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey that’s used nationally.
So we’ve gone beyond that. So now we have life satisfaction items. As you were thinking about and answering the questions, a way to kind of organize for you what life satisfaction is from a research perspective, so it’s a cognitive evaluation of one’s life as a whole. This isn’t a feeling or an emotion, this is sort of a judgment, a cognitive judgment, that the students come to, so that distinguishes it from affective states. Sometimes we ask, “In the past two weeks, have you been happy or sad?” It’s not that type of reaction, it’s more of a global evaluation of how their life is going, and so that way it’s enduring. So someone’s life satisfaction shouldn’t be high in the morning and low in the afternoon. This is something that should be more persistent and stable and it incorporates and integrates across students’ major aspects of their life.
It’s based on young persons’ experiences, so it’s based on them experiencing life and coming to judgment and seeing general patterns in their life. If they’re satisfied with school, it might be because they go to school each day. When they come to school, from first grade, second grade, third grade, they come in, the teacher greets them by name, this teacher asks them something exciting that happened the day before and engages them. And as that happens over the time, the student’s mind is kind of like going, “Oh, school’s pretty good,” and they come to a global judgment about it. So that could be true of different aspects of a student’s life, so it’s multidimensional.
The other reason that we wanted to add it to the Healthy Kids Survey is because life satisfaction itself is a good indicator of how other aspects of a student’s life are going. So students who say that they have higher life satisfaction, and if people who see students judge them as having higher life satisfaction, have better physical health, they have more energy, engagement, they have better personal skills, and they have much lower depression or anxiety indicators. So it’s not just a measure, it’s actually affiliated with measurable… A student with higher life satisfaction today is predicted to have better outcomes in the future, so it’s actually a good outcome in itself.
The students get the Healthy Kid Survey online, they log in, and this is what they see. This is actually a screenshot of what the students see when they rate these items, and these are the five items. They’re as simple as, “I would describe my satisfaction with my life as…” in these five domains. And the students rate it from very dissatisfied, dissatisfied, satisfied, and very satisfied. We’re highlighting that because Tom will later show you how the students’ satisfied and very satisfied responses are reflected in the report that you get about how students responded.
Okay, we had a half a million students answer these questions, so we actually have an idea of how students in California are responding to them. And you can see there the percentage of students who responded satisfied or very satisfied. We kind of use that because we think if you’re asked, most parents or teachers who say, “What do we hope for our children?” We hope that at a minimum they would say they were satisfied with their life. That would be kind of a goal. This shows the percentage of students who answered where they lived, satisfied or very satisfied, family and friends, it’s about three out of four said yes, satisfied or very satisfied. Lower for self and lower for school, which is one of the reasons we added the different domains because, rather than just get a global score, this actually gives you an idea of where, if you’re working with an individual student, for example, what domain that you might want to help support them in.
Quickly, we’ll just show you, we look at grade. We won’t go into great depth here, but generally older students tend to be reporting less satisfaction than younger students. And again, we could go on and on about characteristics, but just taking, for example, students’ gender identity, male students report the most satisfaction, male-identifying and non-binary and different-identifying students report by far the lowest levels of satisfaction.
So, here’s the other side of the coin — the students expressing distress. These types of emotions could change more, so this asked, “In the past month have you been experiencing distress?” So, these aren’t clinical symptoms of depression or anxiety, more like general distress that the students might be experiencing. And there’s five items. And to quickly just let you know, there’s a link up here, I think, if you get on your PDF that you can go to, but we just didn’t kind of … excuse me… yeah, go back … throw these items in there. Prior to adding these items to the scale, Erin led a study in which we looked at the responses of 105,000 California students to validate these measures before they went into the core module. So, there was a lot of care in selecting these items.
Again, like with the life satisfaction, we’re trying to take a look at pretty much true and very much true. So, if a student is saying, “I’m having a hard time relaxing,” the indicator that they’re having some difficulty with that is if they responded pretty much true or very much true. I hope that’s kind of clear. And Tom is going to kind of show you how that is used as a way to get an indication of how the students are responding. So again, there are five items here, very efficient, which you can’t have too many items in our Healthy Kid Survey.
Again, with 500,000 students, you can see how the students responded. This is the percentage of students who said pretty much true or very much true to each of the items. You can see, hard to get excited was the least. 41 percent, two out of five, students say, “I’ve been feeling irritated in the past month.” This was back in the 2019 and the 2021/’22 academic year. There may have been some carryover in terms of the pandemic or whatnot. But now that we have these questions, we hopefully don’t have to deal with another pandemic anytime soon, there’s now a baseline from which to judge how students might be responding to challenges that come forward. We’re starting to have that.
So again, we can take a look at grade, you can see there again, the older students tend to have said they’re experiencing more distress in the past month. Like you take a look by gender identity, you can see by far the non-binary and other identifying students who responded that way, were way more likely to say that they’re experiencing distress. Obviously, there are other things we can look at, but we just wanted to highlight that there are differences in how these students respond to these things that we need to attend to. So that brings us to this point. The students have looked at those items, they’ve respond to them, and now they’re in your dashboard. And Tom, you want me to … and Tom, tell me what to do.
Tom Hanson: Okay, so thank you, Mike. Please stay right there for a minute and then I’ll just indicate when you can change the slide. So, what I’m going to do is just run through how you can currently look at the CHKS life satisfaction and social emotional distress data. These data are disseminated in three major ways. First, there’s the comprehensive district and school reports. Then we also have brief graphical mental health reports. And lastly, we have the CalSCHLS District Dashboards, which are different than the Public Dashboards. Just to foreshadow, I highly recommend using the District Dashboard because it allows far more power to sort of dig deep in the data. Can you do the next slide, please, Mike?
The district reports look like this. They show results for summary measures and for every single questionnaire item on the survey. For almost all districts, reports are sent out within one week of survey completion if school enrollments have been provided and if we are told that survey administration is over. In addition, all district reports are publicly posted on the CalSCHLS website in the November following the academic year that the survey was completed. So, for the current 2022/’23 academic year, district reports will be posted publicly in November 2023. The reports are long, the secondary school CHKS reports is 90 pages at a minimum, but they’re in Adobe files and they have bookmarks so you can quickly navigate to the data you’re most interested in. Next slide, Mike. Thank you.
So, your students’ life satisfaction data is shown in table A7.4 in the report. The highlighted top row shows the average reporting satisfied or very satisfied across the five life satisfaction questions. So, the value of 65 for seventh graders means that on average, seventh graders report that they’re satisfied on 65 percent of the five questionnaire items. I know that sounds kind of weird, but you can kind of think of that as they report that they’re satisfied generally on three of the five questions asked on average. So below the top row is the frequency distribution for each of the questions, that gives you the percentage of students who are very dissatisfied, dissatisfied, a little dissatisfied, et cetera, and you can see that there’s different domains of satisfaction assessed. Next slide please, Mike.
Okay, so table A7.5 shows social emotional distress data. We provide an average score in the top row and the full frequency distributions. It’s very similar how we present this, it’s the top two categories. Also note that the life satisfaction and social emotional distress results are disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and gender in the reports. And those are in separate tables later on. So next slide, please, Mike.
Okay, in addition to the big reports, the tabular reports, all districts also receive brief graphical reports showing mental health indicators, and those indicators include life satisfaction and social emotional distress. On the above display, the dark green shows life satisfaction averages, those are the same average as you saw in the reports, and the orange shows social emotional distress. The results show how these indicators vary by grade, which is shown on the left side of the display. And also trends across time within grade, which is shown on the right. Now these reports will likely be changed a little next year based on what Mike will present to you soon. Okay, so Mike, next slide please.
Okay, so the most powerful way to examine your student’s data is to use the CalSCHLS District Dashboard, and so I am going to try to demo the dashboard for you. Mike, I think I’m ready if you can pass it. Do you see my screen? Yes. Very good. Okay, so to access the District Dashboard, go to the CalSCHLS website, that’s calschls.org. Click under my surveys, and there’s this thing called Data Dashboards, and this is a login. These are District Dashboards because they provide school level data and they provide data as responses are being collected, so there are logins for this dashboard. We would sign in— and we’re signing in—and here we see a list of most of the dashboards that are provided to school districts. There’s also a Response Rate dashboard as well. What we’re going to focus on here are the Key Indicators dashboard for secondary students, and very quickly, the Secondary Item Level dashboard.
So here we go in the Key Indicators, and to display results for life satisfaction, we have to choose a domain first, and this measure is under Social and Emotional Health. And here you see on the left the five measures of social emotional health. We have considered suicide, chronic sadness, life satisfaction… well, let’s just choose that and go to it. If you put your mouse over the measure, you get a brief description of that measure, its response categories, and what items go with it. And then you click it, and okay, on the right you get a bar graph and this shows sort of the average percentage of respondents that indicate they’re satisfied or very satisfied across the five items. So we see the average is 67 percent for seventh grade and it declines with the age for this particular school district, which is not a real school district. If you put your bar over the results, you get more information, including the counts of students that this is based on, and you also see some school level results.
What you can also do with this is you can look at sort of school comparisons. So this shares the results across all the schools in the district. This bar, this orange bar right here, shows the district average, so we can see how that varies across schools. Going back to the district level results… What’s really great about the dashboard is you can disaggregate the results by various groups. We have race, ethnicity, living situation… let’s just look at gender. Here we see the results that for males and females, we see that males report higher levels of life satisfaction than females. So, this is life satisfaction. We also have social emotional distress. You can look at gender differences here. These results are consistent with what Mike just showed you. Females report substantially higher levels of social emotional distress than males. So this dashboard’s really powerful and I recommend districts subscribe to it.
There’s also an Item Level Dashboard. So what this does, this is different. So this dashboard is updated continuously as students provide results to the survey, and you can look at every single item in the survey. I happen to know that item 162 is the satisfaction with the school experience. So this shows the frequency distribution of responses to satisfaction with school experience for this particular district. If you highlight the bar, you get some more descriptive information. You can also disaggregate by demographic characteristics. So this is how one can access one’s life satisfaction and also social emotional distress. Note that these are the District Private Dashboards, let’s just go back to Cal Schools. For those of you who are not affiliated with the school district and don’t have access to this, we still have the Public Dashboards. You go to the Cal Schools website, Public Dashboards, and here you get sort of the key indicator dashboards for students, staff, both elementary, secondary students and staff. So that’s still available. Coming soon is Item Level Dashboards that will be publicly released as well. So these are the ways you can access, you can currently look at life satisfaction and social emotional distress data separately. The question is how can we use these data to obtain a more complete picture of mental health? And Mike is going to lead us and shed some light on that.
Michael Furlong: Okay, wonderful. Thank you. That’s really exciting, Tom. Just seeing the development of that dashboard, opens up so many opportunities for schools to dig deeper and look at how their students are doing.
In the last section before Erin takes over, I just want to share a few slides that provide a kind of, little bit of perspective that you’re kind of … I think hopefully you might be saying, “Oh, life satisfaction looks like it’s related to good things. And, of course, distress is not related to things we want. But what if you put them both together?” So that’s kind of foreshadowing a look ahead. It’s sort of back to the future that I was mentioning. So, if you went back to the survey and you see this survey like the students respond to this, you can kind of imagine… okay, students responding to this… Tom showed you that we were interested in… you could kind of turn it into a yes/no question if you kind of look at the satisfied or very dissatisfied. So if you think about it that way, so stick with me on this, is you could have a student… you could say yes, they were satisfied with zero of the five areas or not. And you could take, for example, a student might have responded in this way to these items. They click, click, click on these. So, if you see a student like that, you could say, “Oh, well they had satisfaction on three of the five domains.” Remember Tom said that the average, about 65, was about three of the five questions. Well, this would be an example of a student like that. So, you could kind of go… okay, so a student could do that… you could say, “Well, that’s good to know.”
Well, of course then you could look at those 500,000 students, which we did, and you could actually say, “Well, what percentage of the students answered from zero, were satisfied or very satisfied with zero to all five questions?” And this shows you the percentage of how that spreads out. So you can see now when you score it this way, you can see, oh well students who are four or five —or three, four, or five—that’s about what, over 70 percent of students, maybe about. But look on the other end: 18, one out of five students said zero or one. So if you start thinking about that, you go, “Well, that’s not good. It sure would be nice to know what those students were like or use that as an index of not doing well.” So this could be an index.
Now again, you can do the same thing for the distress items. So as Tom said, we were scoring, looking at, pretty much true or very much true. Well, you can score them as… so yes or no. And you could take, for example, a student may have answered those five questions this way, and of course you could see that the student had one item that was pretty much true or very much true, so they would have a distress score of one. So they have life satisfaction three, distress score one. So now you have a pattern for the students. And you could take a look again like this. You can see about 46 percent of those half million students said they had none of these. So, thankfully most students are saying that they’re not overly distressed in the month. But there are again, 19 percent, about one out of five students who seem to be expressing substantial distress in the past month. So you’re saying, “Oh, wait a minute, I go from zero to five on life satisfaction and zero to five on distress. So that’s six categories.” Maybe you can see where this is kind of going. You could score… a student could get a score on each of those and you could set up a six by six matrix. Now hang with me, we’re going to make it easier.
So a student could have a pattern of responses in any one of those two ways. And if you remember with the resilience indicators, previously they used to be scored as low, middle, and high, like caring teacher. So, if you reconfigured those zero to five, to low, zero to one, mid and high, if you could do the same for life satisfaction and distress, then you only have nine categories. So we try to make it simpler and we think it’s just as effective this way. And if you think about it then, well then optimal mental health as an indicator are the students who have higher levels of life satisfaction and low distress. And the suboptimal mental health areas are those that have low life satisfaction and high distress. But you can see when we think about it this way, there’s a lot of students who could fall in between.
And if you think about it—remember the one student that we had in the example, they had a score of three on life satisfaction and one on distress—they kind of fell in this area. So if you did that and you looked over the 500,000 students that we have, you can actually look at and see the actual percentage of students who fall into any of those nine categories. So coming to a future Healthy Kids Survey report in your dashboard in the future will be a way to organize the students’ responses in this way, so you can get an index.
So you can see, 39 percent of all those students fell in this optimal range, 7 percent in the suboptimal. But as is true in mental health, everyone’s not well and everyone’s not unwell, there’s a lot of students who fall in areas in between. You can see if you’re having this in the future as an index, you can see what percentage of students fall into these nine categories and whether you’re helping students move up towards the optimal areas of mental health and wellbeing.
But of course you might say, “So what?” And this is only a quick snapshot because we could look at all sorts of other indicators. But, for example, your chronic sadness item in the past 12 months, did you ever feel so sad or hopeless every day for two weeks that you stopped your usual activities? So this is an area of concern. But to show you how this relates to those nine categories of wellness, in the optimal area, only 8 percent of those students said yes to that question. In the suboptimal, 89 percent responded that way. But you can see students in these suboptimal ranges, as we would expect, are expressing… much more likely to express sadness in the past year than the optimal. But the other point to take away from this is the only students who aren’t really expressing some level of sadness, a percentage of students, are really only the students who are more in the optimal ranges, which really emphasizes, I think, the importance of implementing strategies that promote wellness, that don’t just prevent problems.
If you turn the coin over, you could look at school belonging—I feel I’m a part of this school—that’s a longstanding item that was in the resilience module. The percentage of students who agree or strongly agree, you can see the same pattern. So whichever side of the coin you look on, students who are in this dual factor way of looking at it, we call complete mental health, the balanced mental health, is really related to other indicators. 18 percent of the students in a suboptimal range said they really belong to school and don’t have access to that important source, resilient source of school belonging. So for that, I will turn it over to Erin, because of course, again, the goal is to have a real satisfied life, not just to answer our questions the way we want them to answer them.
Erin Dowdy: Thanks so much, Mike and also Tom. I think it’s great to be able to actually look at your data and have had a chance to think about, “What’s in the survey? How can we use this information?” That’s our ultimate goal, is thinking about what can we actually do to enhance life satisfaction and have complete mental health, recognizing that it is more than just the absence of distress, that it’s also improving this complete mental health. So I’m going to put a question in the chat, hopefully you guys are still awake, but I’m asking you to quickly in the chat, just type in a few things about what are you doing to enhance student life satisfaction, wellbeing, or mental health. Or, if you can’t think of anything that you’re doing for your students, think about yourself. What are you doing to enhance your own life satisfaction, wellbeing, and mental health?
And we’ll give folks a minute to put that in the chat. But I would also like for you to look above, you will see the Linktree. Okay, let’s see. We have some good ideas coming in. Intentional actions, role modeling, taking walks outside, sports, exercise. Those are great. Restorative practices, building community, spending time with friends, unplugging. Yes, certainly. Trying to convince my teenager to do that all the time. Outside, nature, connecting with others, dances, talking circles, field trips, AG programs. Those are all really good ideas.
So if you look in the Linktree… I’m not going to have a whole lot of time to go over this today. As we were thinking through our webinar, we wanted to make sure that we had a chance to provide some of the foundational material about complete mental health and what’s actually in the surveys that our students are taking. And then in the fall, we aim to follow up with another webinar that will talk a little bit more about concrete actions that we can do. But none of this is rocket science. You guys have some really great ideas, thinking about increasing breaks, increasing outside learning time, helping students to learn about their own strengths, I love that. So in the Linktree that is provided, you can see the first one is we have our UCSB resources. And what that will do is it’ll take you to a webpage and it will talk through our covitality model. And so within each of the domains of covitality, we’ll find areas of things that you can do to enhance different building blocks of complete mental health. For example, under gratitude, you might have some specific activities for doing gratitude journaling, that’s going to help boost life satisfaction and can be easily implemented within schools.
Other things… so building and nurturing positive relationships. These are great ideas of things that you guys are putting in the chat as well. Looking at the bright side of things, how to increase and boost optimism. So those are the UCSB resources. There’ll be some information on self-control, empathy, emotion regulation, increasing gratitude, zest, optimism, how to enhance peer support, family support, school support, and then also things that are particularly important for students in terms of their own self-efficacy, their own levels of persistence and self-awareness. So within that UCSB resources link, you’ll find some hopefully really concrete strategies to enhance life satisfaction and enhance complete mental health.
The next one that’s listed here is Promoting Student Happiness. Dr. Shannon Suldo is a professor who has done some really great work in thinking about how do we promote student happiness—well-named book. And so she has created a 10 session manual that really targets students in grades 3 through 12, and it looks at things like gratitude, kindness, optimism, hope, healthy relationships. And it has these manualized approaches and different ideas and strategies that can be really helpful for boosting life satisfaction and enhancing complete mental health.
The next resource that’s listed here is a Strengths Gym. Based on positive psychology—somebody had put this in the chat as well—but learning about your own character strengths. So it’s based on some of these 24 character strengths that people have and behaviors that we want to strengthen. So perhaps you have a hard time going to the actual gym, but you might want to go to the Strengths Gym. And you can think about learning about your own strengths is a critical first step, so learning about perhaps your bravery, your curiosity, creativity, forgiveness, and teaching students how to learn about their own strengths and then learning about how to use those strengths, and then also how to recognize those strengths in others.
And the final resource there listed is the SEL4CA [Social Emotional Learning Alliance for California] Library, and that has a lot of guidance for enhancing social emotional learning within the classroom and with students. And so for our next slide…. Again, great ideas in the chat. Take those, use those, look in the Linktree for more resources there as well.
So, as Mike and Tom have talked about, there is now new data that will help you better understand your students’ wellbeing. Again, I want to reemphasize that it’s the combination of life satisfaction and distress that’s important, so this is what we call that complete mental health. We all know people that may not be actively in distress but are not actually satisfied with their life as well. And it’s really important to be thinking about boosting life satisfaction. We see that there are lots of critical outcomes that are associated with students that are saying they’re satisfied with their life, and how do we all work together to help students get satisfied, very satisfied. And so those are kind of our key takeaways. We have the data, and I would encourage you to look through your own dashboards. I saw some of the questions in the chat, maybe we can make sure that we answer those. But also thinking about just that combination of life satisfaction, distress, and efforts to boost life satisfaction are particularly important for enhancing wellbeing and complete mental health of your students.
I am going to ping back to our entire panel at this point, so we have a chance to do a little bit of a Q&A.
Rebeca Cerna: Oh, thank you, Mike, Erin, and Tom, for guiding us through these life satisfaction and emotional distress items, to help us really look at a more complete picture of mental health, as you described. And also Erin, for sharing those resources right now at the end that can be helpful for us as individuals serving students and also for students.
There was a question that we have in the Q&A how there’s a proxy indicator for depression, which is chronic sadness. And so the question is, “Is there a proxy for anxiety or would that be an item on the social emotional distress scale?” So that’s a question that I’m posing to Mike, Tom, Erin.
Michael Furlong: Well, who wants to go? I want to go. I do have a comment on that. That’s a shortcoming, I believe. We don’t have a single indicator. The other reason that I think it’s a shortcoming is because students are more likely, in fact substantially more likely, to report having anxiety experiences than having depression experiences. So that really should be something… good comment. I think we should follow up on that. The Centers for Disease Control includes items like depression and suicidal ideation because their concern was experiences that brought students into emergency rooms for medical treatment, and anxiety usually isn’t something, I think, associated with that. We do have some worriness related items in the distress measure, so there is some of that now. But I would just say that’s a good comment and something that we should follow up on, would be my view. Tom? Erin?
Erin Dowdy: Yeah, so if I look at the items that are in the student distress measure that you guys are asking about, there are questions about, “:It was hard for me to cope” and “I thought I would panic.” Sometimes we think of that as a little bit more pathologizing in terms of having perhaps a panic disorder, but that’s certainly related to anxiety. “I had a hard time relaxing” is also asked, and that is also similar to the emotion of anxiety. We don’t ask about it directly, but as we have looked at these things and how they’re related to other things, we have done some analyses that are looking at how are these items looking specifically towards other more robust measures of anxiety, and they’re highly correlated. So we do feel like we’re getting a good sense of students’ feelings of depression, anxiety, stress. We know that many more people experience stress and distress than more anxiety disorders, so to speak. But yes, agree, thank you for your comment and question.
Rebeca Cerna: Great, thank you. There were a couple of … Tom, did you have anything to add?
Tom Hanson: No, nothing to add over what was just said. Thank you very much. A great question.
Rebeca Cerna: There were a couple questions, and I know Tom, you already answered them in writing, but others could have the same question about how they might get District Data Dashboard logins. So do you just want to share that?
Tom Hanson: Sure. I have to admit some ignorance, I don’t know if when you answer the question and type in the answer, does it go out to everybody or does it … But I guess that’s a rhetoric … Does it go out to everyone?
Rebeca Cerna: They do. They are able to see it, but maybe someone may not have looked, clicked on it to read it.
Tom Hanson: Very good. Yeah. Well, if you were from a participating district, you can get login information … Oh, let me back up. The District Dashboard is a subscription service. It’s incredibly affordable. There’s a two-year subscription that is so affordable. And to sign up for a subscription, the easiest thing to do is to call or email your CalSCHLS technical assistance provider. I provided a number for that, it’s (562) 799-5164 or email [email protected]. I think … I must say that dashboard is pretty much underutilized. I mean, there are a lot of districts that have subscriptions, but that don’t seem to be logging in enough. But I encourage you to sign up, it provides the quickest access to data that you can have. You can even get access to the data while the data is still being collected.
Rebeca Cerna: Great. Thank you, Tom. There was also a quick question, Erin, the Strengths Gym book, that’s available to … Oh, thank you for posting it in the [chat].-
Erin Dowdy: I do everything on Amazon, which is, you guys can judge me for that as you wish, but I did find a quick link to this text on Amazon so it’s there for you.
Rebeca Cerna: Okay, Jennifer, so there’s the answer to that question for you. And I think that might be all of the questions that we have. I don’t know if there’s any final thoughts? Mike, you are muted.
Michael Furlong: Just quickly, Jennifer, good question. Carmel Proctor is from the United Kingdom and developed that, but I know her. She’s contributed a couple of chapters to books on positive psychology that we’ve been a part of. So it’s a genuine resource. You have to get it through the … She’s just in the United Kingdom, that’s where she happens to be from.
Rebeca Cerna: So there’s a question, Tom, I don’t know if we’re able to take it right now, but “There seems to be regular revisions for questions on the CHKS. Would there be future consideration for revisiting questions that are in the core module with regards to supplemental modules?” This is coming from someone from a local health department and CHKS is a major data source for them to use as youth indicators, but the core module is very limited to school. So any …
Tom Hanson: Sure. I mean, the survey is revised annually. And here’s the thing, gosh, can I share my screen? The questions have been asked for a very long time and there’s this process to … we’re in collaboration with CDE and other groups to add or subtract items from the core module is true. Since the supplemental modules are voluntary, there’s usually not representative data, especially at the county level, for supplemental modules. This is the time of year where the CDE sort of makes decisions about the content for the core module. We love to hear suggestions all the time, and we just did earlier in this call. There’s a lot of tension with these items and what’s asked about, because we have years and years of longitudinal data. In fact, what I forgot to do is share with you all sort of the trend data that you could see on the dashboard.
So I’m just going to show you that we have this chronic sadness item … can you, see that? … that we’ve been asking about for a very long time. So we have districts that have 10, 11, 12 years of this data that we can look at long-term trends in this data. So if you’re looking for … It would be catastrophic to stop asking this question about chronic sadness, given how much data we have on the disparities and the trends across time. So, there’s lots of tension with changing the survey, given how many districts actually use it and how long they’ve been using it for. So I’m going to stop sharing this.
Rebeca Cerna: Great, thank you. And we probably recognize that when we log in as district users, were able to see that more closely. So we’re able to actually see the numbers over those trend lines. So thanks for sharing that, Tom.
I think we’re going to keep moving forward, so I want to thank the four of you for providing that additional context. And as Erin mentioned, in the fall, we want to have a follow-up discussion, conversation, and session around what else can be done, because mental health is not just about emotional distress, but we also need to have a look at life satisfaction. So this was very helpful to have this. Oh, Erin, you raised your hand.
Erin Dowdy: I just had a final thought/ask of each of you. If you can take something that you see in the chat today, or perhaps on the resources on the Linktree, and do one of these things for yourselves. Again, we always think about these face masks that we have to put on first as caretakers, depending on whatever your role is, you are in front-facing with other children, and we’re better able to help support other people’s life satisfaction if we have our own life satisfaction in check. So think about doing one of these things today. Take a moment to take a walk, think about something that you’re grateful for, something that resonates with you, and I will express my gratitude and appreciation to all of you for joining today.
Rebeca Cerna: Thank you. Thank you, Erin, for that reminder that we all definitely need.
And thank you again to our three presenters, and to CDE, and for all of you for coming and making the time to spend an hour with us today. Thank you so much.