A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKY Regional Youth Summit draws 200 students for discussion on suicide prevention, mental health


Over 200 middle and high school students from across 21 schools in Northern Kentucky attended the 2023 Northern Kentucky Regional Youth Summit on Suicide Prevention this week at Northern Kentucky University.

The students participated in breakout sessions and activities guided to strengthen their leadership and advocacy skills, feel empowered to make change in their community, help to address youth substance use and suicide trends, and foster resiliency skills to better cope with mental illness.

This regional summit, led by the NKY Institute for Strategic Prevention, originated from a collaborative effort between various Northern Kentucky and Kentucky statewide partners in prevention wanting to make an impact in young people’s lives.

Over 45 community partners and organizations have come together offering their support, expertise, and funding to allow this educational event to occur.

Student Leilani Barracoso Scott takes advantage of all the annual Youth Summit had to offer. (Photo provided)

At the event, NKISP launched an NKY Youth Advisory Board in which students will have the opportunity to join and collaborate on regional projects to impact behavioral health prevention initiatives and make changes in their local schools and communities. The goal of the Regional Youth Summit and the launch of the Youth Advisory Board is to amplify youth voice in substance use and suicide prevention efforts and provide more leadership and advocacy efforts across the region.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to engage Northern Kentucky’s youth and equip them with skills needed to advocate for their own and their peers’ mental health. Moving forward, we hope to see these young people leading behavioral health prevention efforts and letting their voices be heard as young mental health champions,” stated Abby Beausir, Program Director, NKISP.

According to the 2021 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) Survey, more than one in five students in grade 8 (21.1%) and grade 10 (21.1%), and nearly one in every four grade 12 students (23.1%) were assessed as living in serious psychological distress.

Reported suicide attempts, even among our youngest respondents in grade 6, were startling: 7% of sixth graders (237 students) and 8.3% of eighth graders (291 students) reported they had attempted suicide in the 12 months before the survey.

Suicide ideation (6th grade, 9.4%, 8th grade, 13.8%) and planning (6th grade, 8.5%, 8th grade, 11.6%) reports demonstrated a consistent need for mental health support among even our youngest students. The need to address the high level of student mental health challenges is paramount and through this Youth Summit and other collaborative efforts across Northern Kentucky, NKY partners in prevention are working to make sustainable change and reduce the startling mental health rates impacting students.

WellCare Kentucky


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