Mental Health, Gun Prevalence Top Concerns For Kentucky Kids

This story was originally published by Public News Service.

Across the state, kids say they want more resources for mental health — according to the recently released 2022 Kentucky Kids Count County data book.

More than 15% of Kentucky’s children and teens struggled with anxiety and depression in 2020.

Kirsten Yancy is a senior at Maryfield High School in Graves County. She said students are struggling to keep pace with rapidly changing technology and face greater academic and social pressure.

“It just puts a lot of pressure,” said Yancy, “because you need to live up to certain standards while also maintaining your own life.”

Students also cite concerns over school safety, whether that’s being prepared to act quickly and effectively in the case of a school shooting or improving their school climate.

Kentucky kids also say they feel threatened by too many guns in their community. The new data shows firearm deaths among children in the Commonwealth have significantly increased since 2013.

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said lawmakers understand that schools, especially those in rural areas, are strained for resources to tackle mental health. She said she expects the issue will be a top priority when the state Legislature convenes in January.

“We know that our schools are now taking on so much of the challenges that kids bring with them from home,” said Coleman. “And so this was a core piece of that agenda that we are going to continue to work through and work with legislators on through the upcoming session.”

Patricia Tennen, chief operating officer of Kentucky Youth Advocates, added that that county-level data provides a snapshot of community resiliency in the face of an unprecedented pandemic and numerous natural disasters.

“When local leaders have that local data on how they’re doing,” said Tennen, “they can really target and know how kids are faring in their community and what targeted efforts they can do to improve well-being.”

Detailed information on more than a dozen measures of child well-being in every Kentucky county can be found at ‘kyyouth.org/kentucky-kids-count.’


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