FRESNO, California (KSEE) – A recent study by the CDC showed during the pandemic, visits to emergency departments related to mental health increased 24% in children – and 31% in teens.
The statistic prompted schools to prepare for students’ mental health needs when they return to campus.
Sanger High School senior Ben Awad says he doesn’t like online classes, being isolated from his friends, and being home all the time.
“And it usually leads to conflict because there is a lot of energy stored up now because I’m just sitting at home in front of a computer.”
COVID-19’s impact on 17-year-old Francine Velasco was more personal. Her mother and brother are healthcare workers- both spending time in the COVID-19 unit
“There’s been times when I haven’t seen my Mom for weeks, my brother like months,” said Francine.
“This is like a real thing. My mom’s co-workers have died and stuff. I’ve had family members who have died.”
The pandemic has taken loved ones, resulted in job loss, destroyed businesses. When teachers and students return to the classroom they will bring these emotions with them.
“When we come back it’s not going to be about reading and writing and arithmetic, it’s also going to be about the social and emotional well-being of supporting our kids and our families and all of our staff on our campuses,” said Fresno County Superintendent Jim Yovino.
Yovino says as schools ready plans to bring students back on campus, the mental health staff will be working to bring awareness to educators.
“Kids experience the same stress that we do as adults and so we may see behavioral changes with our children,” said the Director of Pupil Personnel Services Trish Small.
Behaviors to look for include anger, withdrawal, anxiety manifesting itself with symptoms like tummy aches headaches, lots of worries.
“It’s important to watch those things and pay attention to them to talk to your children and ask them how they are feeling.”
Every school has a psychologist, and some have social workers. Through its partnership with the Department of Behavioral Health, the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools has clinicians at 177 schools.