KIDS COUNT Data Book 2022: Children’s mental health is a growing concern nationwide

Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 7:48 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - This year’s KIDS COUNT Data Book shows Mississippi is improving in most of the areas that are measured for children’s well-being. However, the state still ranks 48th in the country. A focus of the report is on how the various factors are impacting children’s mental health.

The report shows that nationally there’s another pandemic in play, and that involves children’s mental health. It doesn’t show Mississippi as one of the states that saw an increase in depression and anxiety among kids between 2016 and 2020, but Linda Southward at the Children’s Foundation of Mississippi makes this note.

“The prevalence of anxiety and depression is based on parental reports of diagnosis from the National Survey of Children’s Health,” noted Linda Southward, Executive Director at the Children’s Foundation of Mississippi. “In a state like ours, the access to care and particularly mental health services are limited. Many children who could be diagnosed with these conditions may not be.”

However, stats in this report stop at 2020. Health professionals have confirmed to us in recent weeks that they have seen the rates increase since then.

“I feel like mental health issues have taken up more. I would say at least 50% of what we see now even if it coexists with a checkup or another type of visit,” said TrustCare Kids pediatrician Dr. Catherine Phillippi.

“Since the pandemic occurred, I believe in my opinion, again, that this is just the beginning of what we’ll see in terms of the number of children who are going to need intervention,” added Richard McMullan, Region 8 Children’s Services Director.

Mississippi has some issues that show up in the report surrounding how well the family can cover housing costs, maintain employment, or even access childcare and early education. All of those things have a domino effect on children’s overall well-being, including mental health.

“We really need to determine best ways to strengthen some data sharing among agencies to identify more children at an early age that may be eligible for services and provide with needed services,” added Southward. “I believe that there are services out there that are available that parents and communities just may not know about.”

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