June 9, 2022
Mountaineer News | The Editors
Hot Topic Thursday's - Children
Advocates contended that more outreach and services are needed to help West Virginia caregivers with their mental health, which can lead to increased anxiety for children and other difficulties for families. Positive mental health is essential to a child's healthy development. Global nonprofit Save the Children works to increase mental-health programs in the Mountain State. Erika Blackburn, lead associate of community engagement in West Virginia for the group, said while more than a third of the state's adults recently reported persistent anxiety (placing West Virginia in the top three states across the nation), children face the same problem in their own lives, as well as by modeling their parents and caregivers via conditioning and learned behaviors. "A lot of the options that were presented to others across the country during the pandemic were difficult for a lot of our children because of the lack of connectivity," Blackburn pointed out. "There's certainly areas where we work in West Virginia that do not have reliable internet." Blackburn said Save the Children's social and emotional learning program, Journey of Hope, helps around 500 children across 10 West Virginia school districts to explore and understand their emotions, develop healthy coping skills and build resilience for future challenges. Blackburn added the COVID pandemic, and subsequent interruptions to their normal routine, only exacerbated the mental-health challenges children already face in the state. "Exposure to a lot of trauma from the opioid crisis, and just being away from their teachers and the child-serving professionals that are too often the only source of love and support some children receive," Blackburn emphasized. Greta Wetzel, senior adviser of psychosocial support for Save the Children, said the problems West Virginia faces often are the same as other states with large rural populations. "In our rural communities, you might have one mental-health facility for the whole county that could be an hour drive away from you, or one social worker that covers the entire school district," Wetzel outlined. Wetzel noted Journey of Hope programs also offer services for caregivers, explaining while adults are often focused on the needs of children, they need to take moments for themselves.
For more information about Save the Children and West Virginia's Childhood Equity Gap, CLICK HERE.
References: Mental Health Awareness Month U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2022 Children's Mental Health Awareness Week Family Involvement Center 2022 Journey of Hope Save the Children 2022 Health care deserts USAFacts 2022