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LA Unified School District: Substance Use and Mental Health Report


The Los Angeles County Unified School District is the largest school district in Los Angeles County. It represents about 42 percent of the public-school students in Los Angeles County. If you’ve ever been curious about rates of mental health and substance use disorder in LA County, there’s a yearly report that has your answer:

The LAUSD California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS)

Every year, the California Department of Education Coordinated School Health and Safety Office administers this survey to every school district across the state. This annual survey is anonymous and confidential. It asks elementary and high school students in select grades questions about school culture and safety, student connectedness, wellness, and resiliency. The survey also asks about violence and bullying at school, physical and mental health, and student supports for various issues.

The organization releases the results to the public in November of the following school year.

The following data shows the percentage of high school students in LAUSD who engage in drug use or experience mental health issues. If your teen attends a school in the LAUSD, the following data shows the rates of substance use and mental health issue among peers in their district. Each column represents the percentage of high school students in each grade surveyed (grades 7, 9, and 11) who fit the category described.

Without further ado, here are the percentage of teens in the Los Angeles Unified School District who used substances or experienced mental health issues in the 2018-2019 school year.

LAUSD Mental Health and Substance Use Survey Responses, 2018-2019

 7th Grade9th Grade11th Grade
Current alcohol or drug use*71316
Current marijuana use*3913
 Current binge drinking*135
Very drunk or “high” 7 or more times, ever148
Been drunk or “high” on drugs at school, ever299
Current cigarette smoking*131
Current electronic cigarette use*587
Experienced chronic sadness/hopelessness§303029
Considered suicide§151412

*in the past 30 days

  • in the past 12 months

Analyzing the Results

The data suggest the most worrisome issue in LAUSD is that 30 percent of its students experienced chronic sadness and hopelessness at least once in the past year. These students answered “yes” to the question:

“During the past 12 months, did you ever feel so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more that you stopped doing some usual activities?”

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume V, (DSM-5) this is a symptom of clinical depression. Which is worrisome, because it means that 30 percent of students in LAUSD may have experienced at least one depressive episode in the 2018-2019 academic year. This statistic may also explain why 15 percent of seventh graders say they seriously considered suicide in the past year.

According to the CHKS results analysis, students who experience chronic sadness are at higher risk of a wide range of educational, health, social, and emotional problems. Those who reported chronic sadness also reported lower school attendance, performance, and connectedness. They also report lower levels of feelings supported at school or in their communities.

Teen Treatment in Los Angeles

If your teen experience thoughts of chronic sadness, hopelessness, depression, or suicide, please get in touch with a licensed and accredited teen mental health treatment center in LA. Treatment can help teens with alcohol, substance use disorders develop the skills they need to stop using alcohol and drugs, and teach teens with mental health disorders effective skills to cope with their symptoms, and live life on their terms – not those dictated by their mental health disorder.

SOURCE: Los Angeles Unified – CHKS Sample. California Healthy Kids Survey, 2018-19: Main Report. San Francisco: WestEd Health and Justice Program for the California Department of Education.

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