Students feeling the stress of the pandemic: When to address your child’s mental health

Back To School

(WTRF) – Parents, are you feeling anxious or scared about the upcoming school year.

Know this, you’re not alone.

Chances are your children may be having these feelings too. 

We don’t know what school might look like in just a few weeks, but kids are probably going to be spending even more time at home. While teachers and counselors are trained to recognize the signs that a student is mentally struggling, it’s now more critical than ever before that parents learn the signs of distress.

If you or someone you know is in crisis right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

It’s ok to not be ok. It’s not ok to stay there.

Barri Faucett, Director, Prevent Suicide WV

Some conversations can be tough and even awkward for parents and kids, especially mental health and suicide, but they are necessary, especially in these times of confusion and isolation.

Just as if you would treat your child’s broken arm, you also need to treat their emotional symptoms.

Barri Faucett, Director, Prevent Suicide WV

There are signs that your child is in crisis, and it starts with noticing changes in their behavior. 

Something like they’re not sleeping enough or they’re getting too much sleep. They’re not wanting to get out of bed. They’re not wanting to take care of their personal hygiene. It’s sometimes just whatever that out of the norm or typically out of character, but we’re all a little out of character right now.

Michelle Toman, Founder & Chair, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention West Virginia Chapter and Founder of Brother Up

If you see those signs, it’s time for an honest conversation about mental health and suicide. Professionals say when parents tell kids to come to them for anything, they have to mean it.

We’re not always willing as parents to talk with them about the everything and when our child’s life may be in danger that’s scary.

Michelle Toman, Founder & Chair, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention West Virginia Chapter and Founder of Brother Up

Those conversations make children feel connected to something, which is vitally important to mental health. 

That’s a huge protective factor against suicide, so though kids may be isolated at home we’ve got to create a community of connectedness in order to ensure that they’re kind of linked in to other individuals.

Barri Faucett, Director, Prevent Suicide WV

Obviously our emotions are controlled by our brain, but they may be more difficult for a child or teen to process.

Our brains can be a jerk to us, just like our heart or our liver or our lungs.

Michelle Toman, Founder & Chair, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention West Virginia Chapter and Founder of Brother Up

That’s because, as Faucett explained, the first part of our brain that develops is the brain stem. Then the amygdala, which is responsible for emotions.

However, the part of our prefrontal cortex that doesn’t full develop until you’re 25 years old is the part that does the rational thinking. So, we have adult emotions back here as a 14-15 year old but the part of our brain to deal with those adult emotions doesn’t develop until we’re 25.

Barri Faucett, Director, Prevent Suicide WV

As we enter into the age of increased time online, mental health professionals say the way they deliver education to students may have to change, but the message won’t. 

There is hope and help available, you just have to you know reach out or help that individual that you’re concerned about. Reach with them so they get they help they need to be here tomorrow. 

Barri Faucett, Director, Prevent Suicide WV

While the pandemic has sparked many conversations about mental health, there’s another trend professionals are seeing that is concerning.

CPS cases are down across the nation to March, which means that the abuse isn’t getting reported.

We are doing a great job at feeding children, but how many of them are left with individuals they’re not supposed to be left with when there’s no daycare and school’s being held virtually and mom and dad still have to go to work? We just have to do better and able to recognize that and being more diligent about what may be happening.

We just have to do better and able to recognize tha tand being more diligent about what may be happening.

Parents and students, you are NOT alone in the way you feel.

There is help out there, and help for parents and adults on how to talk to their students about mental health and suicide.

Click on the sources below to read more:

Seize the Awkward

World Health Organization

SAMHSA

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and its West Virginia Chapter

The National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI Greater Wheeling

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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