Indiana’s Youth Mental Health Crisis

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By Cameron Williams, Youth First, Inc. – April 4, 2024

Indiana has a youth mental health crisis. To set the stage, let’s address a few facts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most current Youth Risk Behavior Survey data (1991-2021) has found that 46.9 percent of Indiana high school students have “felt sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row.” The same survey found that over 22 percent of Indiana’s high school students seriously considered suicide, with 17 percent of them making a plan and 10.2 percent of Indiana high school students actually attempting suicide.

As indicated by the data, our youth are having a mental health crisis that has worsened every year since the Covid-19 pandemic. An American Federation of Teachers survey conducted in 2020 found that 95 percent of educators agreed that “social and emotional support for students has never been more important than it is now.”

Unfortunately, in 2022 the Indiana Youth Institute reported that the state of Indiana has the worst counselor to student ratio in the United States, at 628 students per one counselor. The ratios for other mental health professionals are significantly worse, with only one psychologist for every 2,698 students and only one social worker for every 2,788 students.

I’m not presenting these statistics to create fear or make the situation seem hopeless. Rather, I hope to clarify just how serious the state of Indiana’s youth mental health crisis truly is, with the hope that it will inspire some change. Thankfully, there are actions that can improve the current situation.

Parents and community members can ask their local schools how many counselors, social workers, or psychologists are available for students to see. They can advocate for mental health training and/or specifically trauma-informed-care training for the teachers and school staff. Parents and community members can also present the statistics found in this article to their local school board, politicians, and governing bodies. If these statistics are presented with information about what services and mental health professionals are available at the school system in their community, a compelling case can be made to improve or increase the services available to the students and youth of that community.

Youth First, Inc. has done an outstanding job of providing services and improving the lives of students at Indiana schools, but there are still many areas in the state of Indiana that currently do not have access to social workers or other mental health professionals in schools. Sharing the relevant data and information that accurately portrays the state’s youth mental health crisis and advocating for change can make a difference for Indiana’s youth. If change is enacted now to save our youth, Indiana can foundationally alter its future course and build the road to a better, brighter future.