Sep 13, 2022 - News

Washington kids have higher rates of depression and anxiety

Percentage change in the prevalence of anxiety and depression in children
Data: Annie E. Casey Foundation; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Washington children were diagnosed with anxiety or depression at a higher rate than the national average at the onset of the pandemic, per a recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Why it matters: As a new academic year begins, school officials, parents and health care providers are looking for ways to support kids who have struggled over the past 2.5 years of pandemic turmoil.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics identified the mental health crisis among children and teens as a national emergency.

By the numbers: In 2020, 15.1% of Washington children between ages 3 and 17 had at some point been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, per the foundation's report.

  • That's higher than the U.S. average, which was 11.8% in 2020.
  • Washington also saw a 33.6% increase in youth depression and anxiety between 2016 and 2020.
  • That's more than the nationwide uptick, which was 25.5%.

What's happening: In recent legislative sessions, state officials have enacted policies aimed at boosting students' mental health.

  • One new law allows students to take mental health days and have them count as excused absences.
  • The budget state lawmakers approved this year also added $90 million for school counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers.
  • Additional money for student support services is expected to be phased in through 2025.

What we're watching: Whether students' mental health improves now that in-person classes and activities are returning — or if the damage caused by the pandemic will continue to manifest for years to come.

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