How Are Minnesota Students Faring?

Every three years, the Minnesota Departments of Education, Health, Human Services, and Public Safety collaborate with all types of school districts to survey students in 5th, 8th, 9th, and 11th grades. The voluntary and anonymous survey includes questions about school social climate and bullying, extracurricular activities, eating habits, emotional health, substance use, and family life. State agencies use these findings to identify trends and determine  how to best improve the well-being of Minnesota youth.

In 2019, 81 percent of Minnesota’s school districts participated in the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS). According to the Minnesota Department of Education, the MSS is the primary source of comprehensive data on youth at the state, county, and local levels in Minnesota. It is the only consistent source of statewide data on the health and well-being of youth from smaller population groups.

“Two of the more concerning pieces of data that came out of the [2019] MSS were around youth vaping and mental health. Based on the questions we asked, it is clear that students do not know that vaping is harmful to them,” says Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker. “The data shows that more Minnesota students than ever reported having long-term mental health, behavioral, or emotional problems. We can all do more to promote mental health and talk to the students in our lives about how they are doing emotionally and offer support.”

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“Girls deserve to grow up seeing the boundless possibilities that lie before them. That so many are instead buried in stress and anxiety is unacceptable,” says Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “This survey shows that we need to continue to support efforts to bring mental health services to students at school.”

“You can make a difference by taking the time to cultivate meaningful relationships with students,” adds Commissioner Ricker. “We must work to end the stigma that still exists around mental health. Mental health is as important as physical health.”

According to the Minnesota Student Survey, 24 percent of 11th grade females reported missing a full or partial day of school in the previous 30 days because they felt sad, hopeless, anxious, stressed, or angry.

Mental Health

  • There was a five percent overall increase in problems relating to long-term mental health, behavior, or emotional stress between 2016 (18 percent) and 2019 (23 percent).
  • Nearly one in ten students in 11th grade reported attempting suicide.
  • Ninth graders who reported having long-term mental health challenges are nearly five times as likely as students in other grades to consider suicide.
  • Of those who reported feeling that their teachers or other adults at school care about them, 35 percent have considered suicide; of those students who reported feeling that their teachers do not care about them, 72 percent have considered suicide.
  • Female students were nearly twice as likely as male students in all grades to report mental health, emotional, or behavioral problems. Since 2013, the number of 9th and 11th grade female students to report long-term mental health, behavior, or emotional stress has more than doubled.
  • Native students were more likely than their peers to miss school because they felt sad, hopeless, anxious, stressed, or angry.

Bullying

  • Of the 2019 respondents, 19 percent reported being bullied or harassed weekly in the 30 days prior to completing the survey.
  • Economically disadvantaged students and LGBTQ+ students reported higher rates of bullying.

Substance Use

  • Although fewer students reported using tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis, 11th graders reported a 54 percent spike in vaping between 2016 and 2019.

Home Life

  • Black and Hispanic students are nearly three times as likely to miss school because they did not have a way to get to school.
  • Overall, 87 percent of students reported feeling safe at home, at school, in their neighborhoods, and on the journey to and from school, which is a 3 percent decrease from 2016.
  • LGBTQ+ students are about three times as likely as cis or heterosexual students to seriously consider suicide and four times as likely to attempt suicide.

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