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Housing Meltdown in MI Connected to Children’s Mental Health?

September 26, 2008

Detroit, MI – While Congress debates a Wall Street rescue, a scientist warns that the nation's financial crisis can reach beyond Main Street and into classrooms in Michigan and elsewhere.

Researcher Susan Eaton with the Harvard University Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice has examined how Michigan's high foreclosure rate and high unemployment rate affect children's mental health and ability to learn–-especially in the poorest neighborhoods of the state.

She says schools are now seeing the effects firsthand of a trickle-down crisis that has been neglected: Increasing numbers of students are at risk for stumbling in attendance and learning ability.

"More economic instability and more stress are immediately entered into the lives of the students and of the parents, and so you see a doubling effect."

Eaton worries that even though children are resilient, the high levels of stress that come with economic and housing pressures can become "toxic" and cause them permanent damage.

"If it's a prolonged level of stress over a long period of time, it actually affects the development of that child's brain."

Eaton says easing one of those stresses with foreclosure prevention policies in the Wall Street bailout plan would help, as would investment in after-school learning programs.

Deborah Smith/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MI