New survey finds alarming data on children’s mental health in CT

Sadness, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts have increased among Connecticut high school students, yet the number of students who say they’re able to get the support they need has decreased, a newly released survey shows.

According to the Connecticut School Health Survey, conducted in 2021 and released this month by the Department of Public Health, more than a third of Connecticut high school students reported having felt sad or hopeless, while more than a quarter report that their mental health was not good most or all of the time and about one in seven said they had seriously considered suicide.

Yet only 22.3 percent of students said they can often or always get the help they need, the lowest figure on record.

“This is like warning lights flashing at us non-stop, and we’re not doing enough about it,” Sarah Eagan, the state’s child advocate said Monday. “We are missing the boat.”

Data from the Connecticut School Health Survey shows that feelings of sadness among hopelessness have increased steadily over time, reaching a new high during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of students who reported considering suicide has increased in recent years as well, reaching 14.1 percent in 2021, though the number of students who report having attempted suicide has decreased.

Mental health struggles are more common among female students, the survey found, with 47.6 percent of girls reporting feelings of sadness or hopelessness (compared to 24.2 percent of boys)  and 40.5 percent saying their mental health was not good most or all of the time (compared to 16.4 percent of boys).

These findings reinforce what advocates have called a children’s mental health crisis in Connecticut and elsewhere, exacerbated by the pandemic. They say rising needs among kids have stretched providers, leading to crowded emergency departments and hospitals and long

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