San Antonio teens create second mental health survey for peers, following up on how they’re doing

Teens 12-19 can take confidential survey now on city websites

SAN ANTONIO – A city survey last year made it crystal clear that teenagers are struggling with their mental health.

The City of San Antonio Department of Human Services said the reason the survey was so successful is that it was written by teens for their peers.

Now, those same students are out to determine if their peers are doing any better.

Exactly one year after the first survey was released, the Department of Human Services and the San Antonio Youth Commission are releasing a follow-up survey, which launched Thursday.

“We wanted to see how everyone was doing out of the transition of COVID-19, how we’re all doing mentally because we weren’t feeling too great. We were feeling stressed out having this quick transition,” said high school senior Emerald Alaniz.

Alaniz is on the San Antonio Youth Commission, where young leaders tackle issues that affect their peers, like mental health. She was on the commission last year when the group came up with questions for a teen mental health survey, and then prompted their peers online to answer the questions.

“Are we all feeling the same? Kind of not feeling motivated? Feeling tired?” Alaniz said.

The city originally expected a couple hundred survey responses, but because it was clear students wrote the questions, they got over 1,000 responses.

“This idea of having this trust. Even though you may not know the teen, it’s knowing that it’s someone your age,” Alaniz said.

One in five teens reported having mental health problems, and most kids said they didn’t know where to get help for themselves or others.

“We understand that friends were the first people that the youth were going to go to. And then half of the friends didn’t know where to find mental health resources,” said Department of Human Services Management Analyst Jemm Morris.

Morris is also the liaison for the San Antonio Youth Commission and said knowing about resources is crucial.

He said one of many resources is calling or texting 988. It’s not just a suicide lifeline. It’s for all mental health issues and can be used by kids and adults.

The city also suggests those in need visit The San Antonio City Resource Directory compiles hundreds of resources in one place, allowing someone to search for the specific help they need.

Spreading information about resources and where kids can find them is one of the continuing goals with the release of this next survey.

“Isolation is one of the key factors in whether they’re feeling harm against themselves or somebody else. So we wanted to make sure that they recognize places where they can connect, find like-minded peers, and also get more trauma-informed adults that can be a supportive addition to their network,” Morris said.

The severity of the original survey results prompted the city to allocate $15 million in COVID relief funds, specifically to youth mental health.

Morris said more funding and attention are possible with the release of this next survey, which is loaded with more crucial questions.

“A lot of them are the same, but some of them are related to personal safety in schools. The active shooter drills and everything else going on that they see in the news that they’re impacted by,” Morris said.

The new survey asks if teens are still feeling the same way they did last year or if there are new factors involved.

“It’s not a one-time thing. It’s always going to be a problem. It’s always going to be something we need to talk about,” Alaniz said.

To Alaniz and her peers, the survey brings a little relief, knowing they aren’t alone.

“Knowing I’m not the only teen in San Antonio going through it,” she said.

The survey is completely anonymous and confidential. Teens ages 12 to 19 are encouraged to take the survey now, on the Metro Health and Department of Human Services websites.

The links will also be circulated on social media by both teens and adults.

Parents, caregivers, teachers and friends are encouraged to let teens know about the survey so their voices can be heard.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.