Recent data showed that parents are experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression, which will ultimately impact children as well, according to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth (TCCY).
The U.S. Census Bureau has been collecting information on households with children since the start of the pandemic, and over the summer Tennessee ranked second in the nation for anxiety and depression.
The most recent data was collected between Sept. 30 and Oct. 26, and although figures have decreased, TCCY officials expect figures to increase in the coming months as the pandemic worsens.
Mental health in children has been an ongoing topic, especially in regards to the racial injustice protests over the summer. To decrease any negative long term effects on Tennessee’s children, “it’s important for parents to be healthy and have the support they need to provide better for their child,” said Kylie Burns, TCCY Communication and Policy Specialist.
Over the last few weeks, 47% of parents reported feeling anxious and 32% of parents reported feeling depressed. The national average is 43% of parents reporting anxiety and 36% of parents reporting depression, according to Burns.
Throughout Tennessee, 23% of households with children reported having little confidence in their ability to pay rent, with Black households reporting 38%.
Nationally, 47% of households are facing eviction and 17% are facing foreclosure. Although no specific data exists for Tennessee, TCCY officials expect the numbers to be similar.
The pandemic has highlighted issues that previously existed, such as the housing crisis, according to Richard Kennedy, TCCY executive director. Children are currently at risk for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) unless the needs of their parents are met, such as education, access to nourishment, housing and childcare.
“The process of returning back to normalcy, economically and socially, is going to require that we address those systemic problems that have been revealed in our healthcare, education and social programs. We have to address the core of this to move forward,” Burns added.
State officials and organizations need to prioritize providing resources for families in cooperation with the Tennessee Department of Education and mental health service providers, according to Kennedy.
“We have to think about mental health issues. We have to think about the social support and networks, whether it’s faith communities or whether it’s through your neighborhood organization, because we know that until we can take care of those things, other things won’t receive attention,” said Kennedy.