A Mental Health Needs Assessment of Low-Income Students Attending an Alternative High School: Qualitative Findings


Research suggests that students who attend urban or alternative schools experience higher rates of poverty, family instability, and violence victimization. These risk factors can result in higher rates of depression, school absences, and lower academic performance. This needs assessment explores the mental health needs of students at a low-income, urban, alternative high school in Southern California from the perspective of students, teachers, and staff in order to better understand the stressors and mental health needs of this vulnerable population. Four focus groups were conducted with students (n = 9), teachers (n = 7), and staff (n = 13). Audio files were transcribed and two independent coders examined the transcripts and developed a codebook. Two additional coders coded the transcripts using the codebook and the themes were frequency coded. The goal was to identify stressors students at alternative schools face and their impact. The results will help inform the design of future behavioral health interventions to support students and teachers at the school’s wellness center.