Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Children whose parents died from Covid-19 need better access to mental-health services, especially in rural areas

Hundreds of thousands of children have lost a parent or caregiver to Covid-19, but many lack mental-health services, especially those in rural and other underserved communities.

"From January 2020 to November 2021, more than 167,000 children under 18 lost a parent or in-home caregiver to Covid-19, according to a December report titled 'Hidden Pain' by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Nemours Children’s Health and the Covid Collaborative," Aallyah Wright reports for Stateline. "Psychologists say this loss has caused an uptick in anxiety, depression, trauma- and stress-related disorders in some children. Mental-health professionals, like others in health care, have experienced burnout amid much higher caseloads. Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health."

Many children in underserved communities are having a harder time processing their grief because of existing stressors such as housing insecurity, hunger, and disruptions to schooling, Wright reports.

"The Biden administration has directed some pandemic relief aid to student mental health programs and some states passed related legislation, but none of the efforts have focused solely on children who have lost caregivers," Wright reports. "With states’ 2022 legislative sessions underway, mental health advocates hope the youth mental health crisis will push lawmakers to pass laws that increase access and availability of services, expand mental health awareness and alleviate a strained mental health workforce, especially in rural areas."

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