Study says 22 percent of Alaska’s children report feeling down or depressed during the pandemic

Published: Jan. 16, 2021 at 6:45 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Nearly everyone is feeling the effects emotionally, financially, and physically of COVID-19, but it has magnified the struggles of those already facing hardship before the pandemic, as evidenced in a recently released study. The Kids Count Report shows more than 22 percent of Alaska’s children report feeling down, depressed or hopeless during the current pandemic. The data is part of a recent report published by the Annie E. Casey foundation.

“I think that the largest key takeaway is families are struggling with basic needs, especially around food and housing,” said Alaska Children’s Trust CEO, Trevor Storrs. “Families are struggling to keep dinner on the table and a roof over their heads. Almost 20 percent of Alaskan adults living in households with children had little or no confidence in their ability to pay their next rent or mortgage payment, and that’s very striking to think, let alone Alaska’s children are missing meals.”

The data indicates Alaska falls short in three of the four indicators studied, including health insurance access, mental health, and housing stability. In fact, the study found 16 percent of Alaskan households with children did not have health insurance, and 14 percent said they often don’t have enough to eat.

“When those basic needs aren’t being met, either because they can’t afford it, or more importantly just can’t access it, that really puts children and families at risk,” said Storrs. “It puts a lot of stress on the family.”

Storrs says some federal and local grants and programs have helped ease some of the strain, but he says it’s time to start thinking differently about how we approach these issues.

“We’re very happy to see that the federal government representatives stepped forward,” said Storrs. “We’ve got another CARES fund package to help businesses, to help individuals, so we can minimize people becoming homeless and help them gain access to food, and so forth.”

There’s still a lot to be learned from our experience with COVID-19, but Storrs says it’s important to take those lessons and create a new normal, or a new way of thinking ourselves versus letting the pandemic do it for us.

“The big thing is tomorrow,” Storrs said. “It’s how do we take this information and our experiences and transform our systems. How do we look basic needs? How we look at childcare. That was a huge strain. People were going back to work but there was no childcare or it was very limited. How do we manage that? How do we manage pandemics? How do we make sure we’re managing the health side, but also the mental health side.”

The full report including Alaska specific information can be found here.

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