The is some positive news locally related to kids’ mental health. Data from a national survey points to a decrease in anxiety and depression rates here Illinois.

But that’s not a trend across the country.

According to the Annie Casey Foundation’s 2022 Kids Count Data Book that looks at state trends in child well-being, 8.9%, or 213,000, of Illinois children aged 3 to 17 were experiencing anxiety or depression in 2020. That’ s down from 10.7% in 2016. Yet across the country, rates have increased by 26% in the same time period.

Cassie Davis is the manager of data research at  YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. She’s spearheading the release of the report to lawmakers who can advocate for improvements in services.

“Illinois ranked 23rd in child well-being this year. We’re considered in the better category of states so that’s encouraging, but there’s obviously opportunity for growth,” Davis said.

In Illinois, 81 out of 102 counties lack a psychiatrist who specializes in children or adolescents.  

“That’s a huge gap that we have in our state,” she said.

Lack of insurance is a key factor for 95,000 Illinois children, even with the state’s All Kids Program, which offers low-cost or free comprehensive healthcare coverage regardless of immigration status.

“That could be due to some fears,” Davis said. “The uninsured rate actually affects LatinX children at a higher rate. So doing some campaigns outreach to make sure children are getting covered.”

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Schools are another focus.

“That’s where children are spending a lot of their time. That’s a place where parents entrust their children to have support,” Davis said. “So having those mental health care professionals on staff, increasing that, would be really helpful for parents and children to access those services.”

While the latest survey numbers only account for the first-year of the pandemic, Davis said there were stressors impacting children long before Covid.

“Like poverty, food insecurity, housing insecurity those were added stressors and so right now is really the time to invest in mental health care,” Davis said.

The survey numbers could be higher than reported – as many children may not be diagnosed due to lack of care.