Iowa (KCAU) — Mental health in Iowa’s youth shows promising yet concerning numbers based on statistics since 2020, and some organizations are calling for action.  

According to a release from Fenton the Social Change Agency, statistics by the Annie E. Casey Foundation show that Iowa ranks number nine out of 50 states regarding kids’ mental health.  

The release states that kids’ mental and emotional stability in Iowa is higher than in most of the nation, but there are areas that are “indicators of concern.”  

The release cited Common Good Iowa, which shows that Iowa places 21st for absenteeism in preschool, 22nd for fourth-grade reading proficiency, and 25th in math proficiency. Additionally, Iowa ranks 25th on child and teen death rates and 33rd on teens that are overweight.  

“Iowans are at a decision point,” said the Executive Director of Common Good Iowa and Iowa’s member of the KIDS COUNT network Anne Discher, “Our education rankings are perhaps the clearest example of our flagging commitment to the well-being of our children. After years of underinvesting in our public schools, we’re seeing warning signs. We’re not the clear leaders we once were.”  

There are some positives in Iowa as well, according to the release, the state ranks first and best for students graduating on time and tied for fourth place on children with health insurance.  

Other rankings in the four domains include, 

  • 5th in Economic well-being
  • 11th in Education
  • 11th in Family and community context
  • 17th in Health

Concerns about mental health in children rose in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the release, in which anxiety and depression in kids from three to 17 years old increased by 26%. Prompting the U.S. surgeon general to call it a “mental health pandemic.”  

According to a release from Common Good Iowa, in 2020 13% of kids from three to 17 years old were experiencing anxiety or depression in Iowa compared to 12% nationally.  

The release stated that the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Common Good Iowa have called for developing programs and policies that would help the mental health of children and their families.  

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

The release indicated that easing mental health struggles by prioritizing meeting kids’ basic needs, ensuring every child has access to mental health care, and bolstering mental health care that takes into account young people’s experiences and identities.