Students struggling with mental health during first few weeks of school

[anvplayer video=”5137742″ station=”998128″]

(ABC 6 News) – While school may have just begun, many students are still feeling the long-term mental health effects left from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Austin, the district provided an overview of services at this week’s school board meeting saying a growing number of students are seeking care for mental health. Now more than ever are children struggling with anxiety and depression.

According to Sheri Willrodt, the executive director of special services at Austin Public Schools, it is not just teenagers who are struggling. Willrodt says all grade-levels are having a hard time, and for the first time ever, the school is seeing a growing need for resources for the youngest of kids in the district.

While the pandemic left everyone reeling, including adults and teachers, it is evident that the effects were felt intensely by students and had a lasting impact on their mental health.

“Economically, everyone can kind of bounce back from that and has a chance, but the mental health issue can stay for years and years,” said Peter Dungate, a grandfather of three school-aged children. “I hope there’s enough people to help the kids through this time.”

Students feelings anxiety precipitated by a lot of change over the last few years.

“A complete disruption of their school schedule, their social interaction, it’s created problems in families where everybody was confined to their homes,” said Supervising Psychologist with Horizon Program Mark Hansen.

Austin Public Schools are not alone. Nationwide, 70% of public schools report an increase in students seeking mental health services. Additionally, 76% of schools saw an increase in staff voicing concerns over students exhibiting symptoms such as depression, anxiety and trauma, according to a study done by the Dep. of Education.

While the situation may appear as dire, there are ways that parents can help their kids. Including ensuring they are eating healthy, getting their proper sleep and limiting their social media use.

The most important, though, is being a good role model for your children and monitoring your own mental health. Oftentimes, children emulate what they see from their parents, so it is important to always be mindful of this.

“The more we can work together as families, schools and health care professionals to support these students, the better our chances of getting them through this difficult period,” said Willrodt.

At Austin Public schools, so many students have utilized mental health services that the district has discussed possibly needing more funding in the future to keep up with the demand. If you notice your child is struggling, Hansen says it is crucial to reach out to the school to get connected with resources and seek help.