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Children's Mental Health

When children have good mental health, it helps set them up for a happy and successful life. It's important for Minnesota to prioritize children's mental health because it's a crucial part of creating a great environment for families. Children's mental health includes how they feel, think, and interact with others; and it plays a big role in their overall growth and future well-being. Having positive mental health helps children develop empathy, work well with others, and communicate effectively, which are all important for healthy relationships and social development. Mental health is connected to physical health, sleep, appetite, and how well children function every day. When children have good mental health, they can concentrate better, learn more effectively, and solve problems, which all help them do well in school.1

The situation regarding children's mental health is worrying both nationally and in our state. In the 2022 Minnesota Student Survey, almost 44 percent (37,912) of students in grades 8, 9, and 11 in Minnesota expressed that they are going through mental distress. Specifically, students who identify as LGBTQIA+ (14,993 students) reported experiencing emotional distress at twice the rate compared to students who do not identify as part of this group. Additionally, at least 60 percent of students who faced housing or economic insecurity reported emotional distress. If students were not connected to a caregiver, this percentage increased to 78 percent. While all groups have shown an increase in mental health distress in recent years, the most significant changes were observed among female students and white students.

Goal: Minnesota students experiencing mental health distress have high quality supports for well-being, prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Measurable goal for 2027: Reduce the proportion of children experiencing mental distress by 10 percent.

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Source: Minnesota Student Survey Interagency Team. Minnesota Student Survey 2022. Minnesota Department of Education, 2022.

Technical notes: The Minnesota Student Survey asks students in grades 8, 9, and 11: “Over the last two weeks, how often have you been bothered by…a) Little interest or pleasure in doing things; b) Feeling down, depressed or hopeless; c) Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge; d) Not being able to stop or control worrying. Students who report that they are bothered “More than half the days” or “Nearly every day” for at least one of the questions above are counted in this indicator. The overall percentage reported is based on 86,328 survey responses where students answered at least one of the emotional distress questions. For the stratified analysis below, the percentage reflects the students in each subpopulation that reported emotional distress; note the size of each subpopulation results in a different weight and impact on the overall population.

Becker, K. D., Brandt, N. E., Stephan, S. H., & Chorpita, B. F. (2014). A review of educational outcomes in the children's mental health treatment literature. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 7(1), 5–23.
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