SOUTHINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) – Alarming data has been released about the mental health of students in Southington. A new survey by town leaders shows rising suicide and depression rates among teens.

Over 1,300 students were surveyed in grades 7, 9, and 11. With depression rates higher, now it is a question of what can be done to help those struggling with mental health.

A February survey of Southington middle and high school students showed that 80 percent reported feeling sad or depressed in the last month.

“For many kids, they were very clear to us at the hospital. At the start of the pandemic, life changed for them,” said Melissa Santos, division chief of pediatric psychology at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

The survey also showed that 14 percent of all students reported they attempted suicide one or more times. The rate was highest among Southington juniors, at 17 percent. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the number two cause of death among young people in the 10 to 24 age range.

“Kids’ coping skills and ability to manage stressors may not be fully formed at that age, so their impulses to act out aren’t well thought out. That may play a role in why it’s so high,” Santos said.

The survey was conducted by Southington’s Town-wide Effort to Promote Success Coalition or STEPS. Deputy Chief Bill Palmieri leads the coalition.

“We can’t discard this information and say, ‘well, it’s not accurate, the kids are answering questions wrong.’ This is the perception of our children. If we can prevent one child from attempting suicide, then we have done our job,” Palmieri said.

Palmieri said the survey is conducted every two years, targeting the 7, 9, and 11 grade levels. The information is used to develop suicide prevention strategies and motivate parents to talk to their kids.

This year, the state legislature approved more than $100 million in new funding for mental health services in Connecticut.

There is some positive news from the data. It showed that 76 percent of students feel they are supported by family and 84 percent said they have positive peer influence.