Child Mental Health

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Mental health influences a child’s health and behavior, both in school and at home, and within their community. Mental health conditions are important to recognize as they can impair a child’s daily functioning, and academic achievements, as well as increase the child’s involvement in juvenile justice and child welfare systems.

In April 2022, leaders of Rhode Island’s mental health care community declared a Rhode Island State of Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. They called for increased funding and a number of measures to build a more responsive, comprehensive care system based in schools and communities.

Unfortunately, as child mental health care needs have increased, care systems have remained largely inadequate to the need. If not diagnosed or treated early on, mental health issues can become more acute with huge impacts on student learning and negative behaviors including self-harm.

The Providence Eye is grateful to Kassidy Todisco, a senior at Providence College, for her excellent work on Providence Counts this week and last. We also thank her advisor, Dr. Carmine Perrotti, for his support and assistance.

 

28.7% – Percent of Rhode Island children ages three to 17 who were diagnosed with a mental, emotional or behavioral health problem in 2022.

38% – Percent of Rhode Island high school students who reported feeling sad or hopeless for more than two weeks during the past year in a 2021 survey, up from 26% four years earlier.

47% – percent of responding Providence students who rated their mental health as “fair” or “poor” on the Student Health and Wellbeing Survey in 2020. This survey is run by the city of Providence’s Healthy Community office as a means to gather data on the mental health needs of students. Mental health was listed as the biggest health issue among youth in Providence, RI.

80-90% – Providence Public School students who have been identified as experiencing trauma  at one point in their lives, based on results from Cognitive Behavioral Interventions for Trauma  assessment in 2020. Some of these traumas include bullying, food insecurity, and exposure to violence.

1,943 – Number of suspensions of Providence students in the 2020-21 school year. According to a June 2020 Health Assessment, Providence Schools School policy is generally aimed at disciplinary action for misbehavior rather than addressing underlying mental health care issues.

392– 1 mental health counselor for every 392 children in the state of RI. This number is far below the 250 to 1 recommended ratio by the American School Counselor Association.

59% – percent of Rhode Island children who needed mental health treatment in 2021, but had problems obtaining needed care

2-3x – children living in poverty are two to three times more likely to develop mental health conditions than their peers

9% – children of Rhode Island high schools who reported attempting suicide one or more times during 2023

Sources

Providence Public School Health Needs Assessment

Link Between Mental Health and Academic Performance

RI KIDS COUNT 2021-2022 Mental Health

RI KIDS COUNT 2021-2022 Suspensions

Kassidy Todisco, originally from New Jersey, is a senior at Providence College