Pandemic has worsened RI children’s mental health and learning

Lena Weib

Rhode Island Kids Count will release its annual report Monday on the state of Rhode Island’s children, and for the second year the pandemic’s consequences are reflected in worsening mental health and learning conditions, the group says. 

Each year the Providence-based nonprofit charts through data comparison the improvements and declines in the well-being of Rhode Island’s children — a population group now at 209,785, the group says, and trending downward. 

“I think this data confirms what we were seeing last year,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. “The pandemic is continuing to have a significant impact on the well-being and safety of children in youth in many areas.” 

Mental health being one. 

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, starting in March 2020, teen mental health was a growing concern, said Burke Bryant. Then as schools closed for distance learning and children were isolated at home, away from their peers and extracurricular activities, data shows their mental health worsened. 

For instance, Bradley Hospital’s 24-hour hotline, called Kids Link Rhode Island, saw a doubling of calls between fiscal year 2019 and fiscal 2021 — from 4,849 to 9,702. 

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