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Today’s youth face a litany of challenges on their way to adulthood. But luckily there are ways to help.

We often hear the expression “the joys of childhood.” But sometimes childhood can be anything but joyful. In fact, it’s hard being a kid today.

Not only are there the usual issues – peer pressure, growing pains and struggling to fit in – but there are outside factors beyond children’s control: mental health and economic issues, food insecurity, housing insecurity, lack of access to critical services and other issues. These issue All of these issues can take a toll on children’s mental health, causing sadness, stress, depression and anxiety. According to a 2020 Georgia Department of Education anonymous survey of kids in grades 6-12 across the state, more than 113,000 youth reported wanting to seriously harm themselves in the past 12 months. Of those, close to 80,000 seriously considered attempting suicides are barriers to living a happy, healthy life and have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many challenges that kids are facing right now are the same they were facing before the pandemic,” says Erica Fener Sitkoff, the executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children (Voices). “We went into the pandemic with hundreds of thousands of children in Georgia facing food insecurity and housing insecurity. What we are layering onto that with the pandemic is loss of instruction, social isolation and grief and loss.”