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Parents encouraged to observe their child’s mental health as they return to school

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 10:03 PM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Going back to school can add stress to students as the pandemic continues, and that’s why doctors are advising parents to keep an eye on their child’s mental health.

Dr. Shawn McNeil with Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport says mental health is as important and in some cases more important than a person’s physical health.

He says some children are going through a lot of stressful events right now. McNeil says it could be coming back from vacation, their sleep schedule changing, more expectations in a new grade level, or the pandemic, including mask mandates.

McNeil says anytime there’s extra stress added to the equation it can affect a kid’s mental health, but there are ways for parents to help.

“I think it all comes down to communication. The better the bond is with your child, the more they’re probably likely to tell you and the more likely they are to reveal when they’re having a problem. So communication, having lots of family time, trying to maintain a good quality relationship with your child, which I think should be a priority anyways. That’s going to give them the space to tell you when there’s a problem,” McNeil said.

McNeil says any interaction with primary care doctors can be the first line in recognizing and treating a mental illness. Most importantly, he says when you notice a problem, seek help.

Every child is different, so McNeil believes parents are key in recognizing symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

“Kids need some extra support right now, and parents can help to provide that support. The parents can make sure that there are clear expectations from the teacher and that the child understands what the teacher really wants. And they can also seek out resources for help. Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics put out helpful advice on their website. There’s another group called the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,” McNeil said.

The Louisiana Department of Health also talks about COVID preparedness and going back to school.

McNeil believes if schools will invest in mental health resources it may be the best way to engage children.

Here’s a list of available mental health resources:

American Academy of Pediatrics- https://www.aap.org/en-us/Pages/Default.aspx

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry- https://www.aacap.org/

Louisiana Department of Health- https://ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/4023

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