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The CDC reports growing mental health struggles among adolescents, especially girls

LINCOLN, Neb (Nebraska) — Nearly 60 percent of adolescent girls say they experience feelings of lingering sadness or hopelessness, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency also found that 30% had seriously considered suicide, which was double the rate for boys.

About 20% of the girls also said they had experienced rape or other sexual violence in the past year, another increase from previous years.

The CDC said the number of children affected by mental health problems has increased over the past decade, increasing most among adolescent girls.

Since the start of the pandemic, other studies have found similar trends in the decline in children’s mental health, and some say they have been exacerbated by social and political unrest.

The ACLU of Nebraska said it is seeking help from the current Nebraska Legislature to lower those numbers.

“Unfortunately, in Nebraska we are not meeting the necessary ratio of student counselors to students, school psychologists to students,” said Rose Godinez, senior policy and legal counsel.

The ACLU testified last week on a bill that would require mental health training for teachers and school administrators.

Godinez also said that many Nebraska school districts are investing too much money in school law enforcement and not enough in school counselors and psychologists.

“Having a law enforcement presence in schools doesn’t make school districts safer,” he said. “Indeed, it creates more of a safety concern for students with disabilities and students of color and long-term consequences regarding their mental health and future opportunities.”

Nearly half of LGBTQ students said they seriously consider suicide.

Abbi Swatsworth, executive director of OutNebraska, said it is heartbreaking to know so many students are struggling and that the answer is to give them more support.

“We have seen here in Nebraska, just in this legislative session, a number of bills being introduced that would negatively impact LGBTQ, especially transgender students,” she said. “When young people are supported, when they have a supportive adult in their life, their risk of suicide goes down enormously.”

Lincoln Public Schools says it has several ways to help students manage stress and support their mental health.

Andrea Phillips, the LPS coordinator for school social workers, says one of them is through Hope Squads, which are peer-led groups where students can talk to each other.

SEE ALSO: ‘Everyone Has the Power to Save a Life’: LPS Promotes Suicide Prevention Resources

“This is one way we’re approaching it and trying to help students even if they’re not necessarily comfortable coming from an adult,” she said. “And that means the peer isn’t the person responsible for providing that support, but is just a listening ear and a person to bring them to a caring adult.”

The district also has 43 social workers who meet with students one-on-one to address mental health issues and 115 counselors who work with students in the classroom.

Phillips said LPS is working with community agencies to increase the number of providers and ensure that every school has a full-time counselor.

Tags: ACLU of Nebraska, CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child suicide, children’s economic well-being, Children’s mental health, LGBTQ children, LPS, Mental Health, Nebraska Children Health, Nebraska Kid Health, OutNebraska, School Counselors, suicide awareness, youth mental health

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