Report Details Youth Mental Health Challenges

January 17, 2023 2:44 PM | Anonymous

From Wisconsin Health News

Thirty-four percent of Wisconsin students report feeling sad and hopeless almost every day, a 10 percentage point increase over the past decade, according to an annual report released Friday by the Office of Children’s Mental Health. 

Children’s sense of belonging in school is dropping. And kids are reporting “alarming rates of mental and emotional distress,” with female and LGBTQ+ students reporting “especially bleak feelings,” said Amy Marsman, senior research analyst at the Office of Children's Mental Health. 

“Wisconsin is going in the wrong direction in these areas,” Marsman said at a briefing. 

The office's report presents data on 40 different clinical, social, economic and individual health factors, with most data from 2021 or 2022. 

Compared to five years ago, bullying and the teen birth rate have declined. The number of school social workers, school counselors and school psychologists has increased, largely due to investments by the Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers, Marsman said. 

“This is a great step forward,” Marsman said.

Office Director Linda Hall said one of their focuses in the coming year will be on "youth voice."

“Because we know that youth have good ideas about how to address this youth mental health crisis, we intend to be listening to them more,” she said. 

They’ll also be working to find ways of increasing kids' social connectedness, like supporting efforts that invest in school mental health services, making school climates more welcoming, reducing family stress and boosting the availability of culturally sensitive mental health professionals. 

Ava Pellegrino, a student at Mukwonago High School, said anxiety and depression are part of many young people's daily experiences. She called on lawmakers to support mental health programming in schools.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many to seek help they need, but the mental healthcare system is now overwhelmed, she said.

“Provider shortages statewide — with some counties having less than 10 providers — is to me a pandemic within a pandemic,” Pellegrino said. “We, as a society, need to prepare ourselves for what is to come, to be able to support the influx that has come from the COVID pandemic, to support those in need.”

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