Report highlights mental health struggles of Maine’s kids by Maine News Service

Photo: Etienne | Creative Commons via Flickr

Originally published in the Beacon:

Children’s advocacy groups are sounding the alarm about the mental health challenges of Maine’s kids.

The 2022 Kids Count Data Book, released last week, highlights how children are struggling with anxiety and depression at unprecedented levels, about one-in-nine nationally.

Helen Hemminger, research associate with Maine’s Children Alliance, said about one-in-six kids experienced these challenges in Maine.

“We know that the pandemic contributed to stress and isolation for almost all youth,” said Hemminger. “And children have the best chance of thriving when they can learn skills to manage anxiety and access quality mental health care without stigma.”

The report comes on the heels of a Department of Justice finding that Maine violated the Americans with Disabilities Act for not providing adequate community-based mental health services for children.

Hemminger said it’s all the more reason for the state to expand investments to identify kids who are struggling and improve access to services, especially in rural areas.

The Data Book report ranked Maine 12th among states for overall child well-being.

Hemminger said improvement is needed in the education domain, where Maine ranked 22nd. She explained that greater investments are needed given the learning disruptions that occurred during the pandemic.

“Evidence shows that young brains are running quite fast, and what they learn early on can influence the whole trajectory of their school and even into their adult careers,” said Hemminger. “So it’s really important to put some attention into helping kids perform as best they can.”

Meanwhile, Leslie Boissiere — vice president for external affairs with the Casey Foundation — said data over the past decade reveals encouraging trends in child well-being nationally.

“Children today have better access to early education,” said Boissiere. “Children have better access or more access to health insurance. And there’s a tremendous sense of optimism among young people in terms of their ability and their desire to make this country better than it already is.”

Boissiere said policymakers should seize on that optimism and enact policies so that all children and young people can thrive.

Maine Beacon, August 16, 2022,