Marking Mental Health Awareness Month, advocates contended more outreach and services are needed to help Tennessee mothers with postpartum depression, which can lead to increased anxiety for children and other difficulties for families.
In addition to May’s focus on mental health, this week also highlights Children’s Mental Health Awareness, underscoring positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development.
Global nonprofit Save the Children works to increase mental-health programs in the Volunteer State.
Amber Cundiff, lead associate of early-childhood programming in Tennessee for the group, said conditions such as postpartum depression can affect entire families.
“Women who just delivered their child many times begin displaying signs of depression due to lack of resources in the community, transportation, family support and overall stigma,” Cundiff outlined. “When a parent is dealing with a mental-health challenge, that directly affects the mental health of their child.”
Cundiff pointed out Save the Children’s social and emotional learning program, Journey of Hope, helps around 250 children across four Tennessee counties to explore and understand their emotions, develop healthy coping skills and build resilience for future challenges.
Cundiff emphasized Tennessee’s rural poverty is a barrier to adults and children finding the help they need.
“Two thirds of the country’s mental-health care deserts are in rural America, including the communities where Save the Children works in Tennessee,” Cundiff noted. “Additionally, three in five adults have reported that the pandemic has impacted mental health in their communities ‘a lot or some.'”
Greta Wetzel, senior adviser of psychosocial support for Save the Children, acknowledged the problems Tennessee faces are often 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,” Wetzel stressed. “Or, one social worker that covers the entire school district.”
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.
Photo: The nonprofit Save the Children says rural poverty in America is an emergency, noting almost 12 million children live in poverty, a burden disproportionately affecting Black and Hispanic kids, as well as those living in rural areas. (Adobe Stock)