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Is there a link between early high school start times, mental health and teen suicides?

School Start Times, Mental Health and Teen Suicides?

Start School Later, the grass-roots advocacy group started here in Maryland, is meeting with Dr. Anne Mathews-Younes, Director of the Division of Prevention, Traumatic Stress and Special Programs, and Dr. Richard McKeon, Director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the US Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS), tomorrow, July 18th, in Rockville, MD.

Compelling scientific research shows that adolescents’ sleep needs are being dangerously compromised by the extremely early school schedules of many U.S. high schools. Waking at 5:30 a.m. to catch a bus and begin school in the 7 o’clock hour is incompatible with adolescent sleep needs and causing teens to miss out on the crucial sleep they need for physical and mental health and development and optimum academic achievement.  Sleep deprivation is strongly linked to anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, among other health effects.

Dr. Terra Ziporyn Snider, PhD, Start School Later's Co-Director, says, “We’re looking forward to discussing ways federal agencies might be helpful in raising awareness and facilitating policies to ensure safe, healthy school hours for all children. This has been impossible to achieve in many local school systems, where all too often politics and myth trump student health and well-being." 

Start School Later is an all-volunteer national coalition working to ensure that all public schools can set hours that are compatible with health, safety, equity and learning.  Members attending the SAMHSA meeting include Dr. Terra Ziporyn Snider, Kari Oakes, PA-C and Heather Macintosh, from Maryland, as well as Terry Cralle, RN, of Virginia, and Debbie Coleman, MBA, faculty member at the Miami University (Ohio).

Visit www.startschoollater.net for more information

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Laura Graham Booth July 17, 2012 at 06:10 PM
I'm sure there must be. Anyone who has ever taken care of a newborn baby knows how sleep deprivation makes everything more difficult; you're more likely to feel depressed or emotional or to fight with your spouse. Teenagers are already dealing with hormonal changes, and denying them adequate sleep deprives them of coping skills they desperately require.
gerald macintosh July 17, 2012 at 09:40 PM
I dont think i can deal with getting up at 5:30 every morning when my homework for school will probably take longer in the evenimgs and i will have lacrosse practice every day after school to. I wish that the school times started later in the mornings.
Maribel Ibrahim July 18, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Thanks for posting this Heather. I'm thrilled about our delegation going to meet with Health and Human Services tomorrow. Ironically, I posted a blog about the link of suicide and sleep deprivation on Severna Park Patch in February 2012, http://severnapark.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-the-frugal-writer-sleeping-in-saves-lives No sooner did I post that, that our county faced another suicide only 3 months later: http://severnapark.patch.com/blog_posts/the-frugal-writer-we-are-not-ok Sleep deprivation really does kill. And, programming school hours in a way that works against the body clocks of students is a big ingredient in this recipe for disaster. Regards, Maribel Ibrahim Co-Founder, www.StartSchoolLater.net
Heather Macintosh July 19, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Update: the meeting went very well and we look forward to continuing discussions with SAMHSA on this important issue. We'll be following several threads including the link between sleep deprivation in students and substance abuse. Stay tuned!

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