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How to help kids deal with mental health issues during the pandemic

Helping students' mental health as they return to school amid COVID-19
Posted at 7:26 AM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 08:05:10-05

TAMPA — There are growing concerns for mental health right now as the pandemic continues.

“With the ongoing uncertainty of what’s going to happen, I think you’re just going to see that continue. You know I think it’s important for us as a community to reach out to people and make sure that those resources are in place,” said Dr. Sheriece Sadberry, a licensed psychologist.

Experts say the months of uncertainty, isolation, and stress has been weighing heavily on children too.

“There’s fears about whether or not they’re going to get sick and what could happen if they get sick. Especially if they’ve been dealing with death in their family from the pandemic as well. So now they’re having to deal with grief and loss in a way that maybe they weren’t ready to experience,” said Sadberry.

With the added stress of more students adjusting from virtual learning to in-person learning, experts say there are signs parents can look out for if their child is experiencing mental health problems like depression or anxiety.

  • Physical symptoms, like stomach issues or headaches
  • Increased irritability
  • Expressing fears and worries
  • Changes in sleep
  • Expressing more energy
  • Social interaction changes

“These are just the way that kids typically present mental illness because they can’t talk about their anxiety or depression, they don’t have those words,” said Sadberry.

Bay Area school districts say they have things in place to help students deal with any mental health issues.

In Hillsborough County, leaders say they have resources for both in-person and virtual students.

Each school has mental health professionals that work with students, and these same employees conduct Telehealth visits with students in e-learning.

In Pinellas County, the district says it has a multi-faceted approach to helping kids with mental health wellness.

All schools have a counselor, social worker, and psychologist for students.

In Sarasota County, officials say they have trained personnel on staff and have community partners for school-based mental health therapists to provide services for students.

To help children at home, doctors say the best thing parents can do is create structure throughout the day because a lot of what’s creating the anxiety is the uncertainty.

Experts say it’s important to give kids something they can expect like morning, afternoon and evening routines, get outside as much as possible, and create open lines of communication.

“Listen to them. A lot of times we talk to kids about what’s going on but we don’t ever ask them how they’re feeling and what’s going on for them and hear their explanation or understanding of it,” said Sadberry.