The 2022 Kids Count Data Book, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, analyzes how states rank in different areas, such as health, education, family, and well-being. Mississippi improved in education, ranking at number 39, but the state ranks 50th in the country for health and 48th in child wellbeing.
The report finds 10% of children and teenagers, ages three to 17, in Mississippi had anxiety or depression.
Linda Southward with the Children’s Foundation of Mississippi said that number may be higher, as the report only includes children that have been diagnosed by a physician.
“In a state like Mississippi, where access to care, in particular mental health services, many children could be diagnosed with these conditions may not be,” said Executive Director Linda Southward.
Southward believes the COVID-19 pandemic made a significant impact on mental health, especially for youth. The Crisis Line in Jackson said it has seen a rise in the number of phone calls from struggling teens.
“In the months of 20 to 21, we have around 525 calls from youth. During the months of 21 to now, 2022, we’ve had over 1,500 calls,” said Brenda Patterson at the Crisis Line in Jackson.
Data from The Mississippi Chapter of the National of Mental Institute of Mental Illness showed more than 67% of teens in Mississippi with depression did not receive care in 2021.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Children’s Foundation of Mississippi are pushing lawmakers to make access to care more easily available.
Southward said she hopes for change as Republican state leaders said they want to better address the emotional wellbeing of women and children in Mississippi.
“It’s a great opportunity to get a deeper insight into what some of the underlying concerns are in the state. I see a series of positives on having policy makers come together to learn more about the specific issues,” said Southward.
The Mississippi Senate will conduct four hearings starting Tuesday, September 27.