New report sheds light on the well-being of young girls in Florida

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Capitol News Service) - One out of five Florida middle and high school girls have thought about taking their own lives within the last year.

At least one in three girls experienced some form of bullying, the same number reported depression. (Pixabay/Elizabet21/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0)

That’s just one of a number of findings published in a new report investigating the problems facing young girls in the state.

In just one year 9,000 middle and high school-aged girls were arrested in Florida.

The report, which surveyed 27,000 girls suggests the state isn’t addressing the root cause.

“They're not focusing on what is causing the girl to hurt,” said Dr. Lawanda Ravoira with the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

At least one in three experienced some form of bullying, the same number reported depression. Girls who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or unsure reported some of the highest disparities.

“Their lives are defined daily by bullying, physical abuse, sexual abuse, trauma and a sense of hopelessness,” said Ravoira.

One out of ten reported they’d been raped. Half had substance abuse problems.

“These experiences are happening right now in the lives of girls in our communities,” said Vanessa Patino Lydia with the Center.

The state of Florida has put a greater emphasis on access to mental health care in schools in recent years, but researchers say that’s only the first step.

Researchers said access to mental health care needs to be improved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.

“It's not enough just to do it in the schools and we shouldn't wait for the next tragedy in order to get the mental health problem fixed in Florida,” said Roy Miller, President of the Children’s Campaign.

Using the data in the report children’s advocates hope to influence policy decisions likely to be made in the next legislative session, which begins in January.

You can find all of the report's findings at seethegirl.org.