A new report focusing on the mental and physical well-being of Indiana girls recently brought attention to the issues facing girls in our community.

The report from St. Mary’s College, The Status of Girls in Indiana, highlights some of the difficult trends girls are up against. There’s the bullying, the low self-esteem, the body image issues, the media saturation.

 Our philosophy is to counter all the negative influences and trends with positive messages and positive role models, helping girls learn to think for themselves and believe in themselves.

Here’s a few of the statistics and how our staff and volunteers are working to respond to the needs of our Greater Indianapolis girls:

28.2% of Indiana female high school students report being bullied on school property, as opposed to 22% nationally and 21.8% of Indiana high school boys.

What we’re doing: Our Work It Out programs lead girls through activities and discussions that teach girls how to deal with bullying and conflict in healthy ways, and to develop the self-esteem and empathy that keep them from engaging in bullying behavior themselves.

1/3 of Indiana girls grades 8 through 10 reported feeling sad or hopeless, with 20.4% of Indiana’s female eighth grade students having considered suicide and 11.5% having attempted suicide at least once.

What we’re doing:  Our Redefining Beauty programs teach girls to value themselves for who they are on the inside and to develop confidence and feelings of intrinsic self-worth. Although there are many causes behind mental health issues, our programs aim to provide girls with a safe space to share and be themselves, and discuss the importance of turning to parents and friends for emotional support.

Indiana girls are more likely than the national average to take diet pills, vomit, or take laxatives to lose weight.

What we’re doing: We help girls recognize the media’s impossible standards of beauty and create their own definition of what real beauty is in Redefining Beauty. We discuss eating disorders and healthy lifestyle habits, discover the value of our bodies as resources rather than objects, and help the girls challenge their own negative self-talk about their bodies.

14.5% Indiana female high school students report being raped, as opposed to 11.8% nationally.

What we’re doing: While we can’t address the roots of sexual violence in our programs, we hope to teach girls to protect themselves and to tell a trusted adult when they’ve experienced any kind of physical or sexual abuse. In Girls Inc. Project BOLD®, we teach girls to be confident and empowered in their bodies,  work on using their voices and self-defense techniques, and give them tools and plans to use if they find themselves threatened.

Although Indiana’s girls outperformed U.S. girls on the ACT, and outperformed their male peers on the English section of the exam, Indiana girls performed worse than Indiana boys on the math, reading, and science portions of the test.

What we’re doing: Our annual Girls Inc. Day is focused entirely on getting girls involved in STEM activities and visualizing careers in STEM–Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. During the summer, Operation Smart programs help girls gain confidence in their abilities and excitement about STEM fields. During Lunch Bunch programs, girls meet role models pursuing careers that include STEM fields, which has been shown to be a strong factor in girls choosing to pursue STEM themselves.

Almost 5,000 Greater Indianapolis girls have participated in Girls Inc. programming to date.  We believe that each time a girl sees that someone believes in her, that’s one girl more likely to believe in herself—and one girl less likely to become a statistic.