The proliferation of mental health guns is the top concern for children in Kentucky / Public News Service

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

More than 15% of children and teenagers in Kentucky 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 up with rapidly changing technology and face greater academic and social pressures.

“There’s just a lot of pressure,” Yancy said, “because you have to live up to certain standards while also maintaining your own life.”

Students also raise concerns about school safety, whether it is preparing to act quickly and effectively in the event 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 that gun deaths among children in the Commonwealth have increased significantly since 2013.

Kentucky Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said lawmakers understand schools, especially in rural areas, depend on resources to address mental health. She said she expects the issue to be a top priority when the state legislature meets in January.

“We know that our schools are now embracing so many of the challenges that children bring from home,” said Coleman. “And so that was a key piece of that agenda that we will continue to work through and work with lawmakers in the coming session.”

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

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

For detailed information on more than a dozen child welfare measures in each Kentucky county, visit kyyouth.org/kentucky-kids-count.

Disclosure: Kentucky Youth Advocates/KIDS COUNT donates to our Fund for Reporting Budget Policy and Priorities, Children’s Affairs. If you would like to support public interest messages, click here.

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