Students Question Confidentiality and Invasiveness of Mental Health Survey

Lauren Theiler and Kadin Saffert

On Thursday, October 14th, grades 9-12, were asked to take a survey during an extended third-hour class. The survey, 2021 YRBS High School Version, consisted of 100 questions about drug use, suicidal thoughts, sexual activity, and violence. 


The YRBS measures behaviors related to intentional and unintentional injury, tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, sexual activity, diet, and physical activity


During students’ extended third-hour class, a video was shown stating the survey results would be anonymous and put into statistics.


Examples of questions on the survey were, “During your life, with how many people have you had sexual intercourse?” and “During the past 12 months, how many times did anyone force you to do sexual things that you did not want to do?”


Freshman, Katlyn Tarkowski says, “It’s weird that they were asking us these questions at school. It won’t help anything if they don’t know what people answered. I think they would go and find out who the people are, I don’t think it was anonymous. I know many people lied about it for this reason.” 


The video shown to students before taking the survey claims to put these results into statistics. The survey focuses on one’s personal choices for drugs, sex, and suicide. 


Dwayne Wang, a freshman, says, “People were scared to tell the truth because we don’t know if it’s really confidential.”


The survey asked questions about whether students have tried drugs, how often they do it, and which drugs they’ve done.


Junior, Lily Wakefield, who dances in her free time and works at the school store says, “It’s absolutely not, [confidential].” 


Another question asked was, “Have you ever attempted or thought about suicide?”


Parents received an email asking if they would like to opt out their child from taking the survey. 


Anna Huber, a junior on Arrowhead’s JV red tennis team says, “Why was there an option for our parents to opt us out if it’s confidential?”


At the beginning of the survey, the students are asked to enter their weight. 


Senior, Andrew Mayhew, who plays basketball, baseball, and golf, says, “I don’t think they’d ask such personal questions unless they could identify who answered what.” 


Additionally, students were asked, “How many times in the past 3 months have you driven a vehicle under the influence of alcohol?” Then it questioned whether you’ve had someone under the influence of alcohol drive you, and how many times.


Summer Stamm, a junior at Arrowhead said, “Especially the questions about being forced into sexual activities may hit hard for people and everything having to do with drugs.” 


Another question was “If you use birth control, which method do you use,” then proceeded to list ways of preventing birth such as, IUD, the pill, Plan B, withdrawal, condoms, and others. 


Liam Jones, a junior who likes to ski during the winter, says, “I think it was a joke and intrusive.”


The survey is meant to assess whether health behaviors increase, decrease, or stay the same over time.