NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – North Texas parents say mental health is their top concern for their children right now, according to results of a survey from the Center for Children’s Health, which is led by Cook Children’s.

Researchers say it’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic has added a considerable amount of stress for families.

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Half of all children, ages 6 to 17, have a caregiver who is concerned that the pandemic will have a negative impact on both their education and their mental health.

“There’s an increase in children that are being diagnosed or have been told by a healthcare provider that they have anxiety and depression, so we’re seeing these issues increase with children, and then also just the ability of children not being able to get the health care services that they needed,” said Becky Hale, the Director of Child Health Evaluation at the Center for Children’s Health.

The data shows an increase in children who have gone without the medical, dental, or mental health care they need.

Parents say the number one reason they haven’t been able to get those appointments is because of the pandemic.

“But also, insurance doesn’t necessarily cover some of the services that they need, and I’d say that also sometimes the services just aren’t provided in the family’s particular area,” Hale said.

The amount of parents who say they are coping well is declining too.

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More than 5,000 families took part in the 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment.

It’s been conducted every three years since 2009.

“After we weighed that data, it’s able to represent the population of around 1.2 million children living in our eight-county service area,” said Blair Williams, a community health analyst at the Center for Children’s Health.

In the coming months, the Center for Children’s Health plans to use this data to work with community partners to address some of these issues.

They believe that will include increasing access to care, and putting a stronger focus on mental health – for both the children and their parents.

“Some action steps that we’ve seen from the data when we’ve kind of dug in a little bit further are around increasing nutritious meals or active physical activity for children and families, connecting children to a medical home, providing insurance coverage,” said Hale.

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Their main message to families – they hear their concerns and help is on the way.

Caroline Vandergriff