If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Everyone has had struggles over the past few years, but kids have been hit especially hard.  During the pandemic, life was upended for them, and it has furthered the increase in mental health concerns among children and youth. For instance, in 2020, 15.9% of children and teens struggled with anxiety or depression, and in 2022, as many as 29% of youth under 17 reported feeling down, depressed, or hopeless for more than half the days in the past two weeks. 

We know that some populations of youth are at higher risk of experiencing serious mental health conditions, including LGBTQ+ youth:

  • In 2022, 49% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide, including 59% of transgender and nonbinary youth.
  • In the same year, 17% of LGBTQ+ youth attempted suicide, including 24% of transgender and nonbinary youth.
  • This is nearly four times as high as their non-LGBTQ+ peers. 

Despite these outcomes for LGTBQ+ youth in Kentucky, we have seen a number of bills filed in the General Assembly that could negatively impact the mental health and well-being of these youth. These bills, if not amended and in some cases significantly, further stigmatize and limit necessary health and mental health care – putting LGBTQ+ youth at risk, rather than providing the support they need. Senate Bills 102 and 150 and House Bills 173, 177, and 470 all have potential to negatively impact LGBTQ+ youth – among them are requirements within school systems or health and mental health care settings that limit expression of gender identity, confidentiality for students, and ability to consent to appropriate health and mental health treatment. 

However, we also see efforts from the Kentucky General Assembly taking action to try to address these issues for children, youth, and families with bills that are good for kids’ mental health, including: 

  • House Bill 162 prohibits mental health professionals from engaging in sexual orientation or gender identity change efforts with a minor – an effort seen across the country with more than 20 states banning the practice. 
  • House Bill 208 requires that certain health insurance plans cover, at no charge, an annual mental health wellness exam by a mental health professional. This means that at least yearly, kids will be able to check in with someone specifically trained to assess and support their mental health. By doing so, any issues that are occurring for a child or youth would be caught early, leading to earlier treatment, and better outcomes. 
  • House Bill 271 creates the Kentucky Child Mental Health Services Access Program.  This program is designed to help local health professionals meet the needs of children with mental illness or intellectual disabilities based on their region.  

LGBTQ+ youth need support and access to health and mental health services that meet their needs, protect their dignity, and allow them to just be a kid. 

Follow along with the efforts in the General Assembly to provide that support to Kentucky students on our Bill Tracker throughout the legislative session. Please make sure to contact your legislators to let them know that you support Kentucky’s kids increased access to mental health supports and the protection of LGBTQ+ youth.

Read Kentucky Youth Advocates’ statement on the House’s passage of HB 470 on March 2, 2023.