COVID-19 shutdowns changed a lot for all of us, more so for school children

Children and Mental Health

When schools and later businesses shut down last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everything changed for all of us.

For children, however, it was a whirlwind as they left physical school buildings.

Licensed Professional Counselor James Taylor said he’s seen more patients at North Alabama Psychiatry Associates, but he’s been surprised by one thing.

“There’s definitely been an uptick with the number of people that are first-time people seeking help, never having seen a counselor,” he explained.

Initially, Gov. Kay Ivey announced a temporary, 2.5-week public school closure statewide, beginning March 18, 2020.

However, that closure later expanded into a premature end to in-person learning during the 2019-2020 school year; almost all learning went fully virtual at that point.

Taylor called the all the changes last year “chaotic” for children.

“I mean this last year has just been completely chaotic for a lot of the kids and teens that I’ve seen, especially with some of those folks that were getting ready to graduate, missing prom, missing graduation, missing those big milestones in their life.”

Dr. Heath Pendland, NAPA founder and medical director, confirmed the mental health issues were varied and on the increase.

“We [are] see[ing] depression, anxiety, and actually an increase in ADHD symptoms primarily.”

But Pendland added there’s one thing to know about children.

“Kids are pretty smart, and then they can handle a lot.”

Throughout May, Mental Health Awareness Month, News 19 will continue the conversation with Pendland and Taylor. We’ll be looking at how parents can ease their children’s stress as they transition back to in-person learning and the warning signs they should seek professional help.

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