Report: CA Children’s Mental Health Declines, Even Pre-Pandemic

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Experts warn that school closures because of the pandemic are taking a toll on California students' mental health. Photo Credit: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – About one in six high-school students in California reported thinking about suicide in 2019, according to new findings from the nonprofit Children Now.

The 2021 California County Scorecard of Children’s Well-Being, released this week, is an interactive online data tool that tracks 39 indicators that measure such considerations as mental health, poverty and academics. Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, said it indicates things already were tough before the pandemic, especially for low-income children of color.

“We know that all these issues have been exacerbated,” he said, “so it really sounds the alarm even stronger that we need to prioritize kids and provide these supports urgently.”

The report also found that more than one-third of kids report chronic sadness, and 15% are in families who don’t always have enough to eat. It also pinpointed some bright spots such as high-school graduation rates north of 90% in rural Mariposa, Merced, Modoc and Sierra counties.

Lempert said the data tool allows “apples-to-apples” comparisons among California’s very diverse 58 counties.

“It’s actually helpful for local officials and local groups to see which counties are doing better in particular areas,” he said.

In the counties that score the highest for kids’ well-being, according to Children Now, local government agencies tend to work more closely with community groups to make their programs as efficient, easy to use and family friendly as possible.

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