A recent report from the Indiana Youth Institute ranked Indiana 28th in the nation for child well-being and reflected increases in mental health issues regarding suicide, primarily amongst LGBTQ youth.
The annual report collects data on health, economics, family and education. IYI studies policies, curriculums, students and families to formulate the data. The data also breaks down race, economic status and gender within families.
IYI's main purpose is to educate adults and organizations that work with children to provide the proper resources and training to work with children, Ashley Haynes, vice president of data and communications for IYI, said.
The report presented an increase in students contemplating or struggling with suicidal thoughts. Due to a lack of mental health resources in 2020, anxiety, stress and depression amongst Indiana youth have increased. Many families find it difficult to book a health care appointment, according to IYI. Indiana has a higher rate of children without health insurance than the national rate. Indiana also ranks 40th in the country for children without health insurance, according to IYI.
“Research does show if you do not have access to a trained mental health professional or provider that you will have people experience those mental health impacts,” Haynes said.
Additionally, the report states Indiana high school students who have legitimately considered suicide increased by almost 28% in 2021. Of the students who considered suicide, 65% identified as part of the LGBTQ community.
In 2021, 80.1% of LGBTQ high school students felt sad every day for at least 2 weeks, while 38.7% of their heterosexual classmates felt sad every day for at least 2 weeks, Haynes said.
[Related: Indiana ‘Don’t say gay’ expanded, advances to full senate]
Indiana House Bill 1608, which targets LGBTQ students, advanced to the full Senate on March 22. This bill would create restrictions for teachers where they would not be allowed to discuss sexuality with their students from kindergarten to third grade. If a student identifies with a different pronoun or name, the teachers must notify their parents and the parents must give consent.
The American Civil Liberties Union in Indiana said this law will affect students’ safety and freedom as well as make students a target for bullying. Activists of the “Stop the Slate of Hate,” a movement to protest HB 1608, has argued that this bill will tremendously affect students’ mental health and well-being.
In 2022, it was reported that two-thirds of LGBTQ students said their mental health was affected by state laws relating to their identify or expression, according to a poll conducted by the Trevor Project.
This bill has been argued as unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause, Jennifer Ann Drobac, a professor at IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law said. The equal protection clause protects people from being denied equal treatment regardless of sex, race, sexuality or gender orientation.
“Indiana is going to have trouble hiring sensible people to the state if we continue to pass ridiculously, unconstitutional, restrictive legislation,” Drobac said.
However, supporters of HB 1608 argue that sensitive topics such as gender orientation should be addressed at home instead of schools, Rep. Michelle Davis, R-District 58, who authored the bill, said.
[Related: Indiana representatives discuss education, LGBTQ rights bills at townhall Thursday]
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to specify the bill would require parental consent in addition to notification.