LITTLE ROCK, Ark – On Monday, new data from the Center for Disease Control shows high school students are struggling with their mental health. The data details a 10-year trend from 2011 to 2021 showing a percentage of youths are experiencing a growing level of distress that requires action.
Local health professionals like the Executive Director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness Arkansas, Dr. Buster Lackey said the data does not surprise him, because he says their organization reports one in six kids, from the ages of 6 to 17, have some type of mental health issue in Arkansas.
Lackey also said in the past months more and more young people are needing therapy.
“We get over 300 phone calls a month on our helpline,” Lackey said.
According to the CDC, in the 10-year span, no matter the sex, race or ethnicity there still was a growing percentage of students who experienced a persistent feeling of sadness and hopelessness.
Lackey goes on to say that there’s a growing number of students that need help to manage their mental health.
“65 percent of students in Arkansas aged 12 to 17 have depression and a large proportion of those did not get any help for it at all,” Lackey said.
He added that some of his colleagues say they’re advising even younger kids than he is.
“They’re reporting even as young as 3 to 4 years old are starting to do counseling for mental health issues,” Lackey said.
Elementary school counselor Christy English also said she is seeing younger kids needing her services because of mental health issues. One of the things English said that she is working with her kids on is how they manage difficult times.
“Kids are definitely going to learn more coping skills,” English said.
Lackey says helping a child with their mental health also starts with parents at home openly listening and trying to help with their child’s issues.
“It is just a good thing for parents to start talking early that it is okay not to be okay but we want to get your help for it,” Lackey said.
He said parents should look out for major behavior changes in their kids.
For those struggling there are resources that can help, like the National Alliance on Mental Illness Arkansas helpline at 800-844-0381 or the 24-hour national suicide prevention lifeline at 988.