Kids Count data shows rising mental health concerns among kids

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 6/1/22

Data from 2020 shows that 467 teens ages 13 to 17 were admitted to the emergency department following a suicide attempt, with 334 hospitalized.

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Kids Count data shows rising mental health concerns among kids


Community leaders, educators, and social service providers gathered last Wednesday, May 25 at Roger Williams University to hear a distillation of the community-level child wellbeing data from the Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook, with a specific focus on the children of Bristol and Warren.

The event was sponsored by Rhode Island Kids Count, Bristol Warren Thrive by Five and Beyond, East Bay Community Action Program, Bristol Health Equity Zone, and Warren Health Equity Zone.

Emily Spence, the Program Manager of Parents As Teachers, co-founded The Bristol Warren Thrive by Five and Beyond group with Donna Ramos Razza, Director of Family Development, East Bay Community Action Program, in April 2013. Their primary mission was, and is, to maintain a coordinated network of collaborating partners to support families’ access to health, educational and social services.

“Nine years ago, Donna and I had the idea to bring together providers who work with families for monthly meetings to better coordinate and strengthen services for children in our community,” said Spence. “We are excited now, through bringing this event to our community, to expand our mission and work to another level by bringing together stakeholders and decision makers to hear this data.”

The data covers virtually every conceivable measure of child welfare in the state and at the local level, from child poverty (3.8 percent of Bristol children, from 2016-2020) to homeless children (22 individuals identified by Bristol Warren Public School personnel) to child neglect and abuse (12.9 per 1,000 Warren children, in 2021) to chronic absenteeism (26 percent at KMS during the 2020-2021 school year). For a deep dive into the Factbook and the compiled data, visit

Mental health a significant concern
Some of the most jarring data was in the area of children’s mental health, where findings reveal that 19 percent of Rhode Island children aged 6-17 have a diagnosable mental health problem — yet 33 percent of children aged 3-17 has trouble accessing needed mental health care. In the year 2019, 15 percent of Rhode Island high school students reported attempting suicide in the prior year. That was before the pandemic. Data from 2020 shows that 467 teens ages 13 to 17 were admitted to the emergency department following a suicide attempt, with 334 hospitalized. Between 2019 and 2021, calls to the state’s behavioral health hotline for teens doubled.

“The data shows an increased need for mental health services for children and families,” said Spence. “There are opportunities to better connect families to existing services, but given the scarcity of clinical services, there is a need for the community to come together and think about how we can creatively address these needs and support families in times of need.”

Taking action
Bristol Warren Thrive by Five and Beyond will be hosting roundtable conversations this fall to discuss how the community can use this data to create an action plan to make changes in programs to improve children’s lives. New community members or partnering agencies are welcome to join. To join or request information, please contact

“RI Kids Count plays such a valuable role in our state, in understanding the data and how it can guide our action,” said Kristin Read, Director of the Warren Health Equity Zone. “And by putting it in the hands of everyone — residents, elected officials, educators and service providers — we can then ask ourselves what WE will do about trends and patterns that are negatively impacting our children and families.”

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