NEW BEDFORD — It went almost unnoticed. Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2022 Kids Count Data Book on children’s health was released. It says that 18.4% of Massachusetts children ages 3-17 have experienced anxiety or depression from 2020 to date. That’s 50.8% more than in previous years.
The national average is 11.8%, and Massachusetts is next to New Hampshire, before Vermont, according to the study.
In New Bedford, the warning came from children’s yoga teacher Tahais Martins. In the midst of the Patio de Comida activities taking place in Riverside Park, Martins held a 45-minute class, after which she warned with concern. “Even if they don’t express it, children have anxiety. They are depressed because they don’t know what is going on in the world.”
A child and youth therapist at the New Bedford Women’s Center, Dolca Ramírez, listed some causes of depression and anxiety in children and said that mental health in the state is in crisis.
“The pandemic amplified a problem that was already coming, due to the lack of attention to children by their parents, the hours of connection to smartphones and tablets, and the strong influence of social networks, among other aspects,” said Ramirez.
The advice of the specialists is to be attentive to the behavior of the children. “Talk to them. Show interest in their problems. Ask what activity they did at school,” she recommended. “What did they learn?”
Editor’s note: Gerardo Beltrán Salinas is a Chilean journalist currently living in the New Bedford area. He produces NoticiasNB, video and news stories on topics of interest to the region’s Spanish-speaking community.