In first statewide survey since pandemic, Minnesota students show signs of mental health stress – Twin Cities

A triennial survey of Minnesota students is raising alarm at the Minnesota Department of Health after a growing number of students reported serious suicidal thoughts and identified as having long-term mental health issues in 2022.

The Minnesota Student Survey is a voluntary survey of more than 135,000 fifth, eighth, ninth, and eleventh grade students conducted January through June of every third year. Covering a wide variety of topics such as school climate, bullying, substance use and more, the results paint a picture of the state’s student well-being and provide a framework for how to improve it.

In what the DOH described as an alarming trend, the 2022 survey saw 28% of 11th graders report having seriously considered suicide at some point in their lives, a jump from 24% in 2019 and the 23% in 2016.

Those numbers are even higher for 11th-graders who identify as LGBTQ+, as results indicated that students in that group are three times more likely than their heterosexual peers to report considering suicide and four times more likely of attempting suicide.

Also trending upward is the number of students reporting experiencing long-term mental health problems. Nearly 30% of all students surveyed had problems with their mental health for six months or more, an increase of 66.6% over the 2016 survey.

The group most likely to deal with long-term mental health issues was female 11th graders, of whom 45% identified as experiencing it, up from 27% in 2016. Only 20% of males males in 11th grade reported struggling with long-term mental health issues.

“These results indicate that the pandemic fueled and worsened the current trends of our teens reporting long-term mental health problems,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “It will take more research to understand the interaction of all the factors, but it is clear that this is a crisis, and Minnesotans, policymakers and families need to focus resources and attention inside and outside of schools to provide our children and their families the connections, supports, stable environments, and opportunities they need for a sense of well-being about their lives and their futures.”

Healthier Behaviors Also Reported

While the MDH acknowledges that an increase in mental health problems correlates with a student’s likelihood of engaging in unhealthy behaviors, Minnesota students are actually improving the way they engage in sex, drugs , alcohol and commercial tobacco.

Cigarette use among all grades has decreased by 90% since 2001, with only 2% of all students surveyed reporting cigarette smoking. Although e-cigarette use among high school students shot up to 26% in the 2019 survey, that number dropped to 14% this year. Use among eighth grade students has also dropped by 45% in the past three years. Marijuana and alcohol use among 11th grade students also decreased by an average of 25.5%.

“The Minnesota Student Survey continues to provide important data on how students are doing and highlights where we need to focus our efforts to support them,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Education Heather Mueller. “This year’s survey paints a clear picture of the continued need to support student mental and behavioral health. The Department of Education is dedicated to working together with other educators, agencies, and our school communities to best meet the academic, mental health, and behavioral needs of our students so they can be successful in school and beyond.”

On other key points from the survey:


Just 60% of surveyed Minnesota students reported excellent or very good health compared to 65% in 2019 and 69% in the 2016 survey.

The general state of health deteriorated and was poorer for the students.

There was a notable increase in the consumption of energy drinks, especially among female students.

The consumption of fruits and vegetables decreased for the students.

Girls were more likely than boys to skip lunch.

The students did not get enough sleep, especially the women.


83% of students say they feel safe at home, at school, in their neighborhood, and going to and from school compared to 87% in 2019 and 90% in 2016.

21% of students surveyed reported being bullied or harassed weekly in at least one form over the past 30 days. About 40% of economically disadvantaged students and 31% of LGBQ+ students reported higher rates of bullying.

Weekly bullying increased for students in all grades from 2019 to 2022.

— Fifth grade: increased from 21% to 23%

— Eighth grade: increased from 21% to 23%

— Ninth grade: increased from 18% to 19%

— 11th grade: went from 14% to 17%

Cyberbullying increased among the lower grades from 2019 to 2022.

— Fifth grade: increased from 18% to 24%

— 8th grade: up from 15% to 17%

— Ninth grade: increased from 14% to 15%

— 11th grade: stayed the same at 12%


Educational engagement continues to decline for all students surveyed. Reduced from 75% in 2013 to 60% in 2022 for 11th grade students. This measure is based on six questions, which are related to worrying about how they are doing in school, if they pay attention in class, going to class prepared, trying to learn things that interest them, thinking that what they learn in school is useful and that being a student is an important part of who he is.

Female students miss school at a higher rate than male students because they feel very sad, hopeless, anxious, stressed or angry. Among ninth grade students, 23% of girls vs. 7% of boys had missed school for these reasons.

Students in all grades agreed that the teachers at their school care about the students.

Compared to 2019:

Fifth grade: stayed the same at 95%

Eighth grade: stayed the same at 86%

Grade 9: Stayed the same at 86%

Grade 11: Slightly increased from 87% to 88%

Student feelings of being valued and appreciated decreased across all surveyed grade levels in 2022 compared to 2019.

Fifth grade: Decreased to 67% from 72%

Eighth grade: Decreased to 58% to 65%

Grade 9: Decreased to 55% to 63%

Grade 11: Decreased to 55% from 61%

If you or a student you know needs free and confidential support, call 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Additionally, Minnesota’s mental health crisis and suicide prevention text messaging services are now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People who text 741741 will be connected to the crisis text line.

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