GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Wedgwood Christian Services hosted its annual State of the Child event Tuesday, looking at key issues children struggle with and offering solutions.

The main topics of this year’s event at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park near Grand Rapids were mental health, substance abuse, trauma, relationships and how adults can help.

Surveys have showed that 4 in 10 parents say they are extremely worried that their child will struggle with anxiety and depression. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that in 2021, 42% of high school students experienced persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. That is compared to 28% in 2011.

Suicidal thoughts also increased for youths: 14% of boys and 30% of girls considered attempting suicide, and 14% of boys and 24% of girls made a suicide plan. Seven percent of boys and 13% of girls attempted suicide.

The mental health of children was declared a national emergency in 2021.

Many children do not have a support system or know healthy ways to deal with their problems, so they may turn to substances to cope.

Hannah Reed, a certified advanced alcohol and drug counselor, says that all of the kids she works with vape. Vaping is common among youths, especially in teens, and vapes are easily accessible. Many are also vaping THC, saying it provides quick relief. It is much harder to help teens who build that habit during puberty find healthy solutions.