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Report: interventions at school, home required for mental health of girls and women

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In Wisconsin, 20% of high school girls have experienced sexual assault or coercion and students who experienced sexual assault or coercion are far more likely to consider and attempt suicide. Youth who identify as queer, Native American girls and Black girls in Wisconsin are much more likely to self harm than girls of other backgrounds. More than one in five (22%) teen girls in the state report being bullied online. Female high school students, with an average age of 15, report distressing levels of sexual violence. Anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, and depression can be worse for women and girls of color who often live in under-resourced communities, compounding their burdens.

These are all grim findings outlined in the Wisconsin Center of Children’s Mental Health August 2023 fact sheet, highlighting data around the mental health of women and girls, released last week.

Researchers also found that external factors such as academic demands, early puberty, early sexualization, body image, bullying and discrimination, as well as societal stressors such as gun violence, climate change, and political divisiveness build stress and also drive the decline of mental health.

“Surrounding Wisconsin children with evidence-based wellness strategies – in their homes and in their schools – is one of the best pathways to preventing further mental health declines. With the vast majority of teen girls reporting poor mental health, the time to act is now,”  said Linda Hall, director of the Office of Children’s Mental Health.

Women and girls of color also benefit from culturally specific care that centers the wellness practices of various cultural experiences and practices. 

The Office of Children’s Mental Health’s fact sheet on this research also highlights various strategies to address, prevent, and transform the conversations surrounding the mental health of women and girls, especially queer women and girls of color. Some strategies include: Youth working with peers to advocate for wellness in their schools, building positive relationships and strengthening school belonging along the way. Caregivers can be attuned to the warning signs of poor mental health, and the wellness factors that protect girls’ mental health. Policymakers can increase stable funding for peer support services and mental health services in schools. Policymakers can support mental health literacy and suicide prevention requirements in schools.

Visit the Office of Children’s Mental Health’s entire fact sheet, available in English, Spanish, or Hmong, for a more detailed list of strategies to improve women and girls’ mental health.