Report shows Tennessee ranked 36th in nation for child well-being

Posted at 8:36 AM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 09:36:31-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A new look at how children are doing here in Tennessee. The latest well-being report ranks Tennessee 36th in the country.

This was from the 2022 Kids Count Data Book, it looks at things like health, economic factors and other things impacting kids.

"As the pandemic ebbs, it is critical that Tennessee strengthen support for children to ensure positive trends continue. Tennessee’s strongest ranking is in education, where the state ranks in the median at 25th. While national advances have occurred in education, Tennessee has clearly improved more than average," the state said in a release.

The report also tackles mental health. The state said we are trending in the wrong direction because 1 in 10 kids are diagnosed with anxiety or depression.

"Tennessee has the opportunity to expand support to help the one in 10 children across the state who are struggling with anxiety or depression get the appropriate care they need," the release said.

Nationwide the report shows how kids of color are disproportionally impacted when it comes to mental health and wellness.

For example, 9% of high schoolers attempted suicide in 2019, but it was higher for black students at 12 percent. Even higher, at a quarter of all American Indian and Native Alaskan students.

"The Casey Foundation calls for lawmakers to heed the surgeon general’s warning and respond by developing programs and policies to ease mental health burdens on children and their families," the release said.

Steps policymakers are being urged to make per the state:

  • Prioritize meeting kids’ basic needs. Youth who grow up in poverty are two to three times more likely to develop mental health conditions than their peers. Children need a solid foundation of nutritious food, stable housing and safe neighborhoods — and their families need financial stability — to foster positive mental health and wellness.
  • Ensure every child has access to the mental health care they need, when and where they need it. Schools should increase the presence of social workers, psychologists and other mental health professionals on staff and strive to meet the 250-to-1 ratio of students to counselors recommended by the American School Counselor Association, and they can work with local health care providers and local and state governments to make additional federal resources available and coordinate treatment.
  • Bolster mental health care that takes into account young people’s experiences and identities. It should be trauma-informed — designed to promote a child’s healing and emotional security — and culturally relevant to the child’s life. It should be informed by the latest evidence and research and should be geared toward early intervention, which can be especially important in the absence of a formal diagnosis of mental illness".