Living in poverty impacts children's mental health

LAS VEGAS -- According to the Kids Count report on the state of children in the country, one in four Nevada children are also living in poverty, which puts the state at number 47th in the country, when it comes to kids' economic well-being.

From depression to anxiety, experts are now seeing all kinds of mental health problems in Nevada's children and teens. Those living in unstable physical and financial situations tend to suffer the most.

Winona McEniry is a mother of two. She was at Catholic Charities trying to get help finding permanent housing. She is also looking for work. It is a stressful time for her family and she says her children are feeling the pain.

"They get angry. They don't really show their emotions so it's hard because I know there are things going on with them but I feel they can't talk to me," McEniry said.

Dr. Olayinka Harding is a psychiatrist at Healthy Minds Children's Mental Health Clinic.

"Poverty can lead to a lot of behavioral, a lot of emotional stress in a child," Dr. Harding said.

She says nationwide the number of cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among children has jumped some 30 percent over the last few years.

Olayinka says in southern Nevada this problem is common for foster children and those living in poverty, because they are forced to move from place to place unable to escape their transient lifestyle

"As a child it is difficult to manage all that, while managing all the things you have to do in your life like school and social things," Dr. Harding said.

Adding to the problem is the lack of medical providers in the Las Vegas valley to treat children with mental health issues. Poor families suffer the most as they are least likely to have insurance.

For McEniry, she hopes to find a full time job soon so she and her kids can get some stability they have needed.

"I am willing to take their stress and everything on they feel because I love them and they are my children," McEniry said.


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