In Hawaii, a report raises questions about children’s mental health.
Approximately 2,200 more kids in Hawaii experienced anxiety and depression in 2020, a 23% increase from 2016. This finding comes from a national study that was published on Monday.
Children, who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic due to the high unemployment in the islands at the time, are found to be in the lowest third of all states in terms of their educational and economic well-being in Hawaii, according to the 2022 Kids Count Data Book, which tracks state trends regarding children.
Advocates expressed their hope that officials and candidates were paying heed after the report was released ahead of Hawaii’s primary on Saturday.
In an interview, Nicole Woo, director of research and economic policy at Hawaii Children’s Action Network, said, “It’s good timing because kids are just getting back to school in Hawaii, and just to remind leaders that we should focus not just on catching up kids academically, but making sure they’re OK with their mental health.”
Woo continued, “We all know the pandemic has been incredibly terrible on our kids. “They were unable to attend school for a year, many events were postponed, and they were unable to visit their friends.” The report’s state partner was the Hawaii Children’s Action Network.
When it comes to the educational and financial well-being of children, Hawaii is among the worst states in the country. Civil Beat/Cory Lum
State rankings were determined by 16 factors divided into four categories and used in the yearly study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, based in Baltimore. The analysis, which analyzed data from 2016 to 2020 in order to gauge the consequences of the pandemic, found that the island state performed better in terms of the rankings for health (fifth), family, and community (15th), and education (seventh).
Hawaii improved four spots from the 2021 study, which examined data from 2010 to 2019, to land in 22nd place overall. In contrast, the report estimated that in 2020, 5.9% of children aged 3 to 17 had anxiety or depression, up from 4.8% in 2016. This raised concerns from advocates for mental health.
The conclusions of the survey weren’t shocking, according to HawaiiKidsCan executive director David Sun-Miyashiro.
We are positioned for a perfect storm of difficulties, Sun-Miyashiro declared. “Even before the pandemic, we weren’t always taking the best care of our children and families,”
According to the research, children in Hawaii suffered disproportionately in the early stages of the epidemic due to restrictions and school closings that effectively shut down the state’s main tourism sector and caused record-high unemployment.
The findings raises worry, according to Ivette Stern of the Center on the Family at the University of Hawaii.
According to research, children who are raised in financially struggling families feel the strain, according to Stern. We must therefore support Hawaii’s families, achieve economic security, and enhance access.
Hawaii was in the worst 10 states for a number of important indicators, such as the fact that 37% of all children in the state lived in households that spent more than a third of their income on housing and that 72% of eighth graders had arithmetic proficiency levels below proficiency.
Woo claimed that previous legislative attempts to ensure that school psychologists are qualified and well-paid failed. She said that if the legislation were submitted again the following year, her organization would support them.
She said, “Anything our Legislature, Governor, and County Councils can do to ensure that parents can afford their house and make ends meet would assist reduce the emotional burden on children and ensure that they’re able to prosper academically.”
In order to assist families in Hawaii’s high cost of living, legislators appropriated billions of dollars from their budget surplus, and the governor signed a measure granting tax rebates ranging from $100 to $300.
However, supporters said that more must be done.
Sun-Miyashiro praised the tax breaks enacted this year but expressed his desire to see them increased to $1,000 for low-income households.
We can’t just rely on the existing quo, he continued, “as we can see from this ranking.”
He continued, “There’s a lot of fantastic things going on in the state right now. There is undoubtedly a lot of work to be done, despite the fact that many schools are working hard to provide students with vocational pathways and opportunities for career readiness.
The Atherton Family Foundation, Swayne Family Fund of Hawaii Community Foundation, Cooke Foundation, and Papa Ola Lokahi all contribute to Civil Beat’s medical coverage.