Survey aims to find causes of Naperville students' stress

Naperville-area public school students are being asked to take an electronic survey to measure which facets of their lives most contribute to their stress levels.

The study, developed by not-for-profit KidsMatter in conjunction with a professor at North Central College, is being administered voluntarily to seventh-graders and sophomores in Naperville Unit District 203 and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 schools.

"KidsMatter was founded in response to concerns that young people were engaging in risky behavior as reported by Edward Hospital's emergency room," Executive Director IdaLynn Wenhold said in a news release. "As we see some of our youth continue to struggle with anxiety and depression, drug and alcohol use and even suicide ideation, we hope that with these results, we'll see where we need to focus our resources."

The survey asks students to report levels of stress caused by issues such as competition, athletic or academic pressures, peer and family relationships, bullying and social media.

It also asks about overall health and coping mechanisms, including the use of drugs and alcohol, and encourages respondents to reflect on what might help them better manage their stress.

Patricia Schacht, associate professor of psychology and former director of undergraduate research at North Central College, said the survey is framed to be scientifically and quantitatively valued and questions were tested by youth groups and North Central students.

In addition to KidsMatter, Schacht said she worked with psychotherapists, school administrators, social workers and psychological services coordinators to refine the survey.

Students need their parents' consent to take the survey and are guaranteed anonymity.

"We know our students experience stress," District 204 Superintendent Karen Sullivan said, "but it will be helpful to get a better sense of what they feel are their biggest triggers."

Roughly 4,000 students already have responded, officials said.

"That alone is significant to consider as we work on figuring out how to change the culture and help parents and all those who work with or influence young people in our community," Schacht said.

Results of the survey will be compiled by early next year and be presented at a public State of the Kids Community Forum at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at Naperville's city hall.

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