DC area kids among those facing nationwide ‘mental health crisis,’ new research shows

DC area kids among those facing nationwide 'mental health crisis,' new research shows
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Nonso Umunna, with the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, a member of the Kids Count network, says the findings for the state show that one in eight children reported they experienced anxiety or depression. “And that’s a staggering number,” said Umunna.

An annual study of the well-being of children across the country shows a dramatic jump in the number of children and teenagers facing “a mental health crisis.”

The 2022 Kids Count Data Book shows Maryland in the “middle of the pack,” ranked 19th on a variety of data points. The data book is developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.



Nonso Umunna, with the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, a member of the Kids Count network, says the findings for the state show that one in eight children reported they experienced anxiety or depression, “and that’s a staggering number,” said Umunna.

In an interview with WTOP, Umunna said the levels of mental health stress have been made worse by the pandemic, but that data shows that there were issues related to mental health prior to 2020 and the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. “The pandemic just helped exacerbate it, helped us see more of it,” he said.

The data focuses on four areas: economic well-being, health, education and family and community.

On the economic front, the report shows that more than 315,000 children in Maryland live in households where neither parent works full-time, 414,000 live in homes where there’s a “high housing cost burden” where parents spend more than 30% of their income on housing, and 153,000 children live in poverty.

Umunna said that information is important because “we know that when there’s financial stress, it also impacts the children as well.”

The report does suggest actions to address the information in the report, including, said Umunna, providing access to mental health care to children “when and where they need it.”



“Basically, you have to strive to meet the 250;1 ratio of students to counselors that the American School Counselor Association recommended,” Umunna said, adding that schools also need to work with local and state governments to make additional federal resources available.

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That mental health care should also take into account a child’s “experiences and identities,” in light of data that shows that rates of attempted suicide are much higher for some groups, including Black, LGBTQ and American Indian children.

To address the economic stresses faced by children and families, Umunna said, “We have to ensure that we expand programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit” because he said, “We know that when families get cash, get financial support, it has an immediate and positive impact” in a number of areas, like providing nutritious food, health care and child care.

Among the findings in the 2022 Kids Count Databook:

Maryland:

According to the 2022 Kids Count Data book, Maryland ranks 19th in child well-being.

  • 23% of children live in homes where their parents lack secure employment
  • 12% of children live in poverty
  • 65% of 4th graders are not proficient in reading
  • 67% of 8th graders are not proficient in math
  • 31% live in homes where the head of household does not have a high school diploma
Virginia:

According to the 2022 Kids Count Data bookVirginia ranks 13th in child well-being.

  • 23% of children live in homes where their parents lack secure employment
  • 13% of children live in poverty
  • 62% of 4th graders are not proficient in reading
  • 62% of 8th graders are not proficient in math
  • 9% live in homes where the head of household does not have a high school diploma
District of Columbia:

According to the Kids Count Data book, DC trails Maryland and Virginia in the well-being of children.

  • 37% of children live in homes where their parents lack secure employment
  • 23% living in poverty
  • 70% of DC’s 4th graders are not proficient in reading
  • 77% of DC’s 8th graders are not proficient in math
  • 12% live in homes where the head of household does not have a high school diploma
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