In TN, mental health issues increase children’s anxiety / Public News Service

Marking Mental Health Awareness MonthAdvocates have argued that more outreach and services are needed to help Tennessee mothers with postpartum depression, which can lead to increased anxiety for children and other difficulties for families.

In addition to May’s focus on mental health, this week also highlights Children’s Mental Health Awarenessemphasizing that positive mental health is essential to the healthy development of a child.

The global nonprofit Save the Children is working to increase mental health programs in the voluntary state.

Amber Cundiff, senior associate of Tennessee early childhood programming for the group, said conditions such as postpartum depression can affect entire families.

“Women who have had multiple births begin to show signs of depression due to lack of resources in the community, transportation, family support and general stigma,” Cundiff pointed out. “When a parent struggles with a mental health issue, it directly affects their child’s mental health.”

Cundiff highlighted Save the Children’s social and emotional learning program, journey of hopehelps approximately 250 children in four Tennessee counties explore and understand their emotions, develop healthy coping skills, and build resilience to future challenges.

Cundiff pointed to Tennessee rural poverty is a barrier for adults and children to find the help they need.

“Two-thirds of the country’s mental health care deserts are in rural America, including the communities where Save the Children works in Tennessee,” Cundiff noted. “Furthermore, three in five adults reported that the pandemic had impacted ‘a lot or a little’ on the mental health of their communities.”

Greta Wetzel, senior psychosocial support adviser for Save the Children, acknowledged that the issues Tennessee faces are often the same as other states with large rural populations.

“In our rural communities, you might have a county-wide mental health facility that might be an hour’s drive from you,” Wetzel pointed out. “Or, a social worker who covers the entire school district.”

Wetzel noted that Journey of Hope programs also offer services to caregivers, explaining that while adults often focus on the needs of children, they need to take time for themselves.

Disclosure: Save the Children contributes to our fund for reporting on children’s issues, early childhood education, education and poverty issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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