Nebraska in better shape than most amid an unprecedented mental health crisis

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — This year’s KIDS COUNT Data Book released early Monday morning, detailing how children across the U.S. are struggling with an unprecedented mental health crisis.

This is all fueled by the pandemic, which has killed more than one million Americans.

That includes over 1,600 children, and more than 200,000 kids have lost a parent or primary caregiver to the deadly Coronavirus as well.

During the first year of this COVID-19 crisis alone, the number of children struggling to make it through the day spiked nearly 26%. That’s 7.3 million kids.

The U.S. Surgeon General is calling this a pandemic within a pandemic.

During his address to the nation in June, President Biden said young people were hurting even before the pandemic, and that there is a “serious youth mental health crisis in this country.”

Near the end of July, the Biden administration announced they had secured $300 million to expand mental health services in schools and that they were encouraging governors to invest more into these services.

In some positive news for people here at home, Nebraska is leading the nation when it comes to promoting the economic well-being of children, which can benefit their mental health.

Nebraska News Connection spoke with Juliet Summers, from Voices for Children in Nebraska. She’s stressing the importance of heading to the polls this November.

Voters should have the chance to keep the state’s child poverty rate low, if the Raise the Wage initiative makes the ballot.

Summers says, “raising that minimum wage allows families to spend more time at home with their kids, to be better able to afford groceries, and really just leads to general family economic stability that kids benefit from.”

However, Nebraska’s economic stability for children has some major holes.

Census data shows that more than 30% of black children in our state are growing up in poverty. 29% of American Indian or Alaska Native children also grow up in poverty here, along with 23% of Latino children.

Those are just some of the reasons child welfare advocates in our state say now is not the time to rest on laurels.

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