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Rising Rates in Youth Mental Health Challenges Spark Action in Milwaukee County

MILWAUKEE – As students in Milwaukee County prepare to head back to school, the spotlight is once again on the mental health challenges that many young individuals face. Three out of five Wisconsin students have reported experiencing one or more serious mental health issues, highlighting the need for comprehensive responses and resources.

Wraparound Milwaukee and Children’s Community Mental Health Services, a branch of Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Services, emphasizes the significance of addressing these challenges head-on and highlights the availability of mental health support services for youth, young adults and their families experiencing serious emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges.

“Our youth in Milwaukee County are currently in a state of crisis, a situation that has persisted for an extended period. It’s imperative that we urgently implement significant measures to address this issue,” said Brian McBride, Director of Wraparound Milwaukee and Children’s Community Mental Health Services. “The return to school represents a significant shift with mental well-being, and by offering timely and accessible mental health support, we can create an environment in which all students have the opportunity to overcome these challenges and succeed,” he continued.

According to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) administered to students across Wisconsin, over half of the students (58.1%) reported experiencing one or more of the following in the past year: depression, anxiety, self-harm or suicidal ideation.

  • 52.2% of students reported anxiety
  • 33.7% of students reported depression
  • 21.7% of students reported self-harm
  • 18.1% of students reported considering suicide and 8.5% attempted suicide

While Milwaukee County is known for rich cultural diversity and vibrant communities, students in the region also face an array of factors that impact their mental well-being. This includes exposure to violence and crime, educational inequities and the complexities of navigating racial and ethnic identity. Addressing factors that shape emotional well-being is the focus of Wraparound Milwaukee and Children’s Community Mental Health Services.

Identifying when a student might require assistance is crucial for their overall mental well-being and academic success. Recognizing that educators, parents, caregivers and community members might need to guide young individuals toward support, it’s vital they are aware and informed of some of the following signs to watch for:

  • Changes in Behavior or Social Withdrawal: Student isolates themselves from friends and activities they used to enjoy or is exhibiting extreme mood swings
  • Persistent Sadness or Irritability: Student consistently appears sad, irritable or shows signs of hopelessness
  • Changes in Academic Performance: Student’s academic performance declines
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Student has trouble focusing, staying attentive or completing tasks
  • Changes in Sleep Patterns: Student experiences significant changes in sleep patterns, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Eating Changes: Student experiences a noticeable shift in eating habits, such as sudden weight loss or gain, skipping meals or binge eating
  • Excessive Perfectionism or Self-Criticism: Student becomes overly self-critical, sets unrealistic standards or exhibits perfectionist tendencies
  • Expressions of Hopelessness or Suicidal Thoughts: Student mentions feelings of hopelessness, thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Excessive Risk-Taking Behaviors: Student engages in reckless behaviors, substance abuse or risky activities

To learn more about how Wraparound Milwaukee and Children’s Community Mental Health Services can provide support, individuals are encouraged to call the Resource & Referral line at (414)257-7607.

About the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Services
Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Services (BHS) provides care and treatment to adults, children, and adolescents with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual disabilities through both county-operated programs and contracts with community agencies. Services include intensive short-term treatment through crisis services and inpatient services, as well as a full array of supportive community services for persons with serious mental illness and substance use disorders.



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