EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Wednesday, Attorney General (A.G.) Josh Shapiro released a special report on student mental health.

Data collected from the ‘Safe2Say Something PA’ program reveals a mental health crisis affecting Pennsylvania children and teens.

‘Safe2Say’ was launched in 2019 for students to anonymously report violence or threats of violence in their school. This report is based on more than 80,000 tips received through the program.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro says the Safe2Say Something PA special report highlights the need to increase mental health counseling in schools.

“73 percent of the tips that have come in have had to do with mental health issues. Students crying out for help for themselves and their friends,” explained Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Dr. Jeffery Kile at PAK Pediatrics in Kingston says mental health issues generally start in childhood and often go unidentified until they’re adults.

“If you can get to these children and adolescents earlier you can save a lot of healthcare dollars and actually morbidity of these people later on in life,” said Dr. Kile.

He says since the pandemic, more and more children are showing signs of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression and early intervention is crucial. He says mental health education in schools is key.

“Whether it be the counselors, whether it be the athletic trainers, these coaches, and the educators themselves to learn to early identify mental illness and mental concerns in children and how to deal with them,” explained Dr. Kile.

Dr. Kile says they often see children who were referred by school counselors, teachers, or administrators. But Shapiro says a lot of school districts, particularly in rural communities don’t have the capacity to provide the mental health support students need.

He says that’s why he’s been calling for funding to ensure that there’s at least one mental health professional in every school building in Pennsylvania.

“We’ve got to have a stable funding line item that will exist over years and years to ensure that students have access to mental healthcare,” said A.G. Shapiro