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Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Mental Health Pandemic for Youth
By News Release @ 4:52 AM :: 2298 Views :: Education K-12, Family, Hawaii Statistics, COVID-19

KIDS COUNT 2022 Hawaiʻi Profile

News Release from Hawaii Children’s Action Network, August 8, 2022

The educational and economic well-being of Hawaiʻi’s children and youth ranks in the lowest third of states, according to the 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. 

Hawaiʻi ranks 22nd in overall children’s well-being in the Data Book, which tracks 16 indicators in four categories. The state ranked 34th in economic well-being, 35th in education, fifth in health and 15th in family and community context.

Hawaiʻi ranks in the bottom 10 states for several key measures, according to the Data Book:

--111,000 children lived in families that spent more than 30% of their income on housing, which is considered a high cost burden. This equates to 37% of all children in the state, ranking Hawaiʻi 48th.

--72% of Hawai‘i eighth-graders scored below proficient math levels, ranking 42nd in the nation.

--Approximately 5,000 teenagers between ages 16 and 19, or 9% of that population, didn’t attend school or work — ranking the state 43rd. 

The Data Book uses the latest available figures, some of which were collected before the pandemic, according to a press release from Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network, Hawaiʻi’s member of the KIDS COUNT network. 

“Years of public underinvestment in Hawaiʻi’s keiki have led to these disturbing statistics, which should be a wake-up call to everyone who cares about the future of our state,” said Deborah Zysman, executive director of Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network. “The upcoming election is a chance for voters to ask candidates how they’re going to make the profound changes our keiki need and deserve.”

While children and youth across the country have suffered trauma and loss due to the pandemic, Hawai‘i’s keiki have disproportionately felt the pandemic’s economic effects, with the state facing some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

The Hawaiʻi findings by the Data Book state 2,200 more children and youth in Hawai‘i have struggled with anxiety and depression in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, than in 2016. It’s an increase of 23%.

Economic and housing instability often lead to anxiety and stress, undermining the mental health of children and youth. Children’s advocates, including Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network and the University of Hawaiʻi Center on the Family, say these findings raise alarms and underscore the need for greater funding for mental health services, public education and social programs that support children and families.

“Compared to other states, Hawaiʻi ranks in the bottom third in the education domain,” said Ivette Rodriguez Stern, junior specialist at the University of Hawaiʻi Center on the Family. “Policymakers have recently made investments to expand access to early learning and to address the impact of the pandemic on learning loss, but there is still room for improvement, and these investments must continue in the years ahead so that we can provide this generation what they need to lead the state.”

One area in which Hawaiʻi fares particularly well is in children’s health, according to the Data Book. The state has the second-lowest death rate for children and teenagers and the fourth-highest percentage of children with health insurance.

“We know what works for keiki: providing quality, universal early care and learning, enacting paid family and sick leave, adopting student-centered budgeting, and ensuring economic security for families,” Zysman said. “Next year, the Legislature will have the opportunity to pass these priorities, putting children and families first and closing long-standing racial disparities.”

For more information, go the Hawaiʻi state profile at HCAN’s website.

A dashboard of selected Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data for Hawaiʻi between April 2020 and March 2021 is available at

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National, State-by-State Data Show Depth of Mental Health Pandemic for Youth


Chil­dren in Amer­i­ca are in the midst of a men­tal health cri­sis, strug­gling with anx­i­ety and depres­sion at unprece­dent­ed lev­els, accord­ing to the 2022 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion with 50-state data on child well-being. The annu­al report focus­es this year on youth men­tal health, con­cur­ring with a recent assess­ment by the U.S. sur­geon gen­er­al that cur­rent con­di­tions amount to a youth men­tal health pan­dem­ic. The report sheds light on the health, eco­nom­ic and oth­er chal­lenges affect­ing Amer­i­can children.

The Data Book reports that chil­dren across Amer­i­ca, and in more than 40 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, were more like­ly to encounter anx­i­ety or depres­sion dur­ing the first year of the COVID-19 cri­sis than pre­vi­ous­ly, with the nation­al fig­ure jump­ing 26%, from 9.4% among chil­dren ages 3–17 (5.8 mil­lion kids) to 11.8% (7.3 mil­lion) between 2016 and 2020, the year COVID-19 swept across the Unit­ed States. This increase rep­re­sents 1.5 mil­lion more chil­dren who are strug­gling to make it through the day.


“Men­tal health is just as impor­tant as phys­i­cal health in a child’s abil­i­ty to thrive,” says Lisa Hamil­ton, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Casey Foun­da­tion. ​“As our nation con­tin­ues to nav­i­gate the fall­out from the COVID-19 cri­sis, pol­i­cy­mak­ers must do more to ensure all kids have access to the care and sup­port they need to cope and live full lives.”

Chil­dren and youth have suf­fered trau­ma and tremen­dous loss over the past two and a half years. By July 2022, more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple in Amer­i­ca had died from the nov­el coro­n­avirus, includ­ing more than 1,600 chil­dren, and more than 200,000 kids had lost a par­ent or pri­ma­ry care­giv­er. And even as they expe­ri­ence COVID-era men­tal health chal­lenges, many chil­dren have con­tend­ed with con­di­tions that made life hard­er well before 2020.

Racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties con­tribute to dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly trou­bling men­tal health and well­ness con­di­tions among chil­dren of col­or. Nine per­cent of high-school­ers over­all but 12% of Black stu­dents, 13% of stu­dents of two or more races and 26% of Amer­i­can Indi­an or Native Alaskan high-school­ers attempt­ed sui­cide in the year pri­or to the most recent fed­er­al sur­vey. Fur­ther, many LGBTQ young peo­ple are encoun­ter­ing chal­lenges as they seek men­tal health sup­port. Among het­ero­sex­u­al high school stu­dents of all races and eth­nic­i­ties, 6% attempt­ed sui­cide; the share was 23% for gay, les­bian or bisex­u­al students.

Eco­nom­ic uncer­tain­ty has had an out­sized effect on chil­dren and fam­i­lies expe­ri­enc­ing finan­cial chal­lenges, lead­ing to increased anx­i­ety and stress for many. Chil­dren in pover­ty, whose par­ents lack secure employ­ment and chil­dren in house­holds with high hous­ing cost bur­dens feel the weight of their family’s eco­nom­ic stress. Chil­dren who live in under-resourced com­mu­ni­ties may expe­ri­ence addi­tion­al stress from safe­ty and secu­ri­ty con­cerns. The report finds:

  • 17% of chil­dren of all back­grounds live in pover­ty, but among African Amer­i­can and Amer­i­can Indi­an chil­dren, that pro­por­tion is close to a third, at 32% and 31% respectively.
  • 27% of all chil­dren have par­ents lack­ing secure employ­ment, but that num­ber goes up to 44% and 41% for Amer­i­can Indi­an and African Amer­i­can chil­dren respectively.
  • Lati­no chil­dren also face a high­er bur­den in these two cat­e­gories than their white counterparts.
  • Unin­sured chil­dren are less like­ly to have access to men­tal health ser­vices, pre­vent­ing them from secur­ing the help they need in times of crisis.

In Decem­ber, U.S. Sur­geon Gen­er­al Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advi­so­ry on the urgent need to address the nation’s youth men­tal health cri­sis. Encour­ag­ing­ly, there appears to be broad agree­ment on the need for action. The Casey Foun­da­tion calls for law­mak­ers to heed the sur­geon general’s warn­ing and respond by devel­op­ing pro­grams and poli­cies to ease men­tal health bur­dens on chil­dren and their fam­i­lies. They urge pol­i­cy­mak­ers to:

  • Pri­or­i­tize meet­ing kids’ basic needs. Youth who grow up in pover­ty are two to three times more like­ly to devel­op men­tal health con­di­tions than their peers. Chil­dren need a sol­id foun­da­tion of nutri­tious food, sta­ble hous­ing and safe neigh­bor­hoods — and their fam­i­lies need finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty — to fos­ter pos­i­tive men­tal health and wellness.
  • Ensure every child has access to the men­tal health care they need, when and where they need it. Schools should increase the pres­ence of social work­ers, psy­chol­o­gists and oth­er men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als on staff and strive to meet the 250-to‑1 ratio of stu­dents to coun­selors rec­om­mend­ed by the Amer­i­can School Coun­selor Asso­ci­a­tion, and work with local health care providers and local and state gov­ern­ments to make addi­tion­al fed­er­al resources avail­able and coor­di­nate treatment.
  • Bol­ster men­tal health care that con­sid­ers young people’s expe­ri­ences and iden­ti­ties. It should be trau­ma-informed — designed to pro­mote a child’s heal­ing and emo­tion­al secu­ri­ty — and cul­tur­al­ly rel­e­vant to the child’s life. It should be informed by the lat­est evi­dence and research and should be geared toward ear­ly inter­ven­tion, which can be espe­cial­ly impor­tant in the absence of a for­mal diag­no­sis of men­tal illness.

Each year, the Data Book presents nation­al and state data from 16 indi­ca­tors in four domains — eco­nom­ic well-being, edu­ca­tion, health, and fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty fac­tors — and ranks the states accord­ing to how chil­dren are far­ing over­all. The data in this year’s report are a mix of pre-pan­dem­ic and more recent fig­ures and are the lat­est avail­able. Mass­a­chu­setts, New Hamp­shire and Min­neso­ta rank first, sec­ond and third in over­all well-being in the 2022 Data Book; Mis­sis­sip­pi, Louisiana and New Mex­i­co ranked 48th, 49th and 50th.

“Amer­i­can pol­i­cy­mak­ers must pri­or­i­tize solu­tions that don’t leave any­one behind,” Hamil­ton says. ​“Chil­dren deserve to thrive regard­less of their back­ground or in which state they live.”

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In the 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book, New England states hold two of the top three spots for overall child well-being. Massachusetts ranks first, followed by New Hampshire and Minnesota. Mississippi (48th), Louisiana (49th) and New Mexico (50th) are the three lowest-ranked states. A child’s chances of thriving depend not only on individual, family and community characteristics but also on the state in which she or he is born and raised. States vary in their wealth and other resources. Policy choices and investments also influence children’s chances for success.



To help children grow into prepared, productive adults, parents need jobs with family-sustaining pay, affordable housing and the ability to invest in their children’s future. When parents are unemployed or earn low wages, their access to resources to support their kids’ development is more limited, which can undermine their children’s health and prospects for success in school and beyond. The negative effects of poverty on kids can extend into their teenage years and young adulthood, as they are more likely to contend with issues such as teen pregnancy and failing to graduate from high school.



The early years of a child’s life lay the foundation for lifelong success. Establishing the conditions that promote educational achievement for children is critical, beginning with quality prenatal care and continuing through the early elementary years. With a strong and healthy beginning, children can more easily stay on track to remain in school and graduate on time, pursue postsecondary education and training and successfully transition to adulthood. Yet our country continues to have significant gaps in educational achievement by race and income along all age groups of child development. Closing these gaps will be key to ensuring the nation’s future workforce can compete on a global scale.



Children’s good health is fundamental to their overall development, and ensuring kids are born healthy is the first step toward improving their life chances. Exposure to violence, family stress, inadequate housing, lack of preventive health care, poor nutrition, poverty and substance abuse undermine children’s health. Poor health in childhood affects other critical aspects of a child’s life, such as school readiness and attendance, and can have lasting consequences on their future health and well-being.



Children who live in nurturing families and supportive communities have stronger personal connections and higher academic achievement. Parents struggling with financial hardship have fewer resources available to foster their children’s development and are more prone to face severe stress and depression, which can interfere with effective parenting. These findings underscore the importance of two-generation approaches to ending poverty, which address the needs of parents and children at the same time so that both can succeed together. Where families live also matters. When communities are safe and have strong institutions, good schools and quality support services, families and their children are more likely to thrive.

Learn more in the 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book.




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