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Mental health issues became much more apparent when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March.

Things changed for so many schoolchildren as everything they had ever known – in-person school, playdates, and running around town with their friends – stopped in an instant.

Some of the mental health issues mental health professionals are serious and urgent, such as suicide and suicidal thoughts.

According to Dr. Heath Penland from North Alabama Psychiatric Associates, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 15-35, with accidental deaths and overdoses being the largest cause of death.

Penland added it’s not just the immediate, short-term issues parents should be watching out for – long-term, developmental issues are on the minds of mental health professionals, too.

“This year has been seemingly like a lost year for a lot of kids, and the concern is that they’ll get left behind,” he explained.

Professional Counselor James Taylor said there are certain behaviors that should be a warning signal for parents to talk to their kids and be prepared to seek professional help:

  • Unusual behavior
  • Isolation
  • Sudden change in friends/friend groups
  • Pushing the boundaries, such as talking back more, breaking rules more than usual

As far as resources, there are several Penland recommends:

Locally, Crisis Services of North Alabama is also there for individuals in crisis – (256) 716-1000.

If you are reading this story and thinking about suicide, get help immediately and contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.