Children in the midst of a mental health crisis, struggling with anxiety and depression, study shows

There’s another pandemic in play, and it involves children’s mental health.

As kids head back to class, a new report says children are struggling with anxiety and depression like never before.

The Kids Count Data Book for 2022 from child welfare charity the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzes how children and families are faring across the nation.

Tennessee ranks 38, Arkansas 43, and Mississippi 48 for child wellbeing.

“The pandemic definitely played a part because of isolation and then being alone,” Dana Cole of Memphis said.

Cole knows times have been tough. That’s why he makes sure to check in with his two teenage boys periodically.

“We usually sit down and talk at dinner time; we have no electronics,” he said. “We just sit down and talk the old-fashioned way.”

The coronavirus pandemic dramatically increased anxiety and depression in kids ages three to seven, according to the study.

The conditions have led to what health experts call a mental health crisis for youth.

“I think that a really important part to acknowledge is even though they don’t have the responsibilities as an adult, they still have just as much to be stressed about,” Jared Davis, a licensed counselor in Memphis, said.

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With the recent uptick of gun violence in schools, Davis said some kids might feel uneasy about going back to class.

He said it’s important for parents to create a safe, predictable home environment where children will feel safe to open up about how they are feeling.

“It’s something we really need to talk to them about, so they feel more comfortable and more prepared as they are walking into school,” Davis said.

Davis said it’s important for parents to be patient with their children and to be open to the way they express their emotions.

“There is a power differential between the kids and their parents,” he said. “It’s very, very hard a lot of times for kids to even express certain things to their parents, and if they feel like that’s getting shut down, they will shut down completely.”

Davis said some signs that your child may be struggling with their mental health include drastic changes in their behavior or personality, not wanting to do things with their family or friends, and changes in their appetite.

If they talk about wanting to harm themselves or others, get medical help immediately.