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Report: WV Sees Uptick in Kids Diagnosed with Anxiety, Depression

August 22, 2022

Nadia Ramlagan

More West Virginia kids are struggling with their mental health, according to the latest Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Around 30% of kids in the state were diagnosed with one or more emotional, behavioral or developmental condition in 2019.

Executive Director of West Virginia Kids Count Tricia Kingery said she believes economic well-being is a critical foundation for ensuring kids and families can best address mental-health issues.

“So looking at the economic landscape and creating opportunities for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, who are raising our children,” said Kingery, “giving them opportunity to have a good-paying job with good benefits, is where it begins.”

According to the report, 23% of West Virginia kids lived in households making around $26,000 annually for a family of four between 2016 and 2020. And 35% of kids had parents who lacked secure employment.

Kingery said mental-health workforce shortages are presenting challenges to ensuring kids are receiving accurate mental-health diagnoses and treatment.

“The other thing is to ensure every child has access to mental-health care when they need it, and where they need it,” said Kingery. “And in a state like West Virginia, we have a lot of rural areas.”

Leslie Boissiere – vice president for external affairs at the Casey Foundation – said kids of color are disproportionately impacted, and are more likely to live in households with economic barriers.

“We are seeing that Black and native children are more likely to experience anxiety and depression,” said Boissiere. “Part of that is because of financial hardship, part of it because of deeply rooted systemic barriers that children of color face.”

The data book ranks West Virginia 42nd in the nation for overall child well-being.