TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Leon County Schools starting the first of four mental health workshops for parents on Thursday.
The district is partnering with Capital Regional Medical Center to teach how to recognize the signs a child is struggling with.
A parent of an LCS student says this is unusual, and at times stressful, school year, this is necessary.
"They were upfront and honest and said, 'Mr. Hanna, we're struggling,'" said Rocky Hanna, the superintendent of LCS. "'We're struggling emotionally. We have a lot of anxiety. We're not dealing with this well.' And I've said from the beginning, our kids, we have to protect their physical and mental well being before we can start to educate them."
Hanna says he decided to do this after he noticed some students were disconnected.
It's been a difficult year for students with online learning and classrooms socially distanced.
"Not seeing anybody is kind of rough," said Rowan DeGreef, a student at LCS. "I haven't seen any of my friends in seven, eight months, and that's just horrible."
Rowan DeGreef and his two sisters are in a virtual school, and although they are doing well academically, they miss personal contact with their peers.
"I know they're not getting the interaction they would at school on a day-to-day," said Crystal DeGreef, Rowan DeGreef's mother. "And so I feel guilty that I can't give them that."
Tips from Leon County Schools and Capital Regional Medical Center may help parents spot the pandemic effects on their children.
"Try to be as open-minded as you can whenever you're discussing with them and try not to minimize their concerns," said Dr. Jeffery Ferraro, the Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Capital Regional Medical Center.
There are consistent warning signs.
"School refusal, not wanting to go to school," Ferraro said. "We may see various body complaints like headaches, an upset stomach, which is a very common sign of depression in kids."
LCS reporting an uptick of mental health referrals from school guidance counselors. Degreef says sometimes students may need a break.
"It's rough, but if they have down days and stuff like that," said Crystal DeGreef. "Like a couple of days ago, Juni was having a little struggle, so she was able to take that personal day and take some time."
If it can't be solved so easily, experts say get help immediately.
For most, it starts right at school.
"For the parents, call your home zone school and ask for your guidance counselor," said Alan Cox, the assistant superintendent at LCS. "You're going to want to start there."
Experts say they have seen a 30 to 40 percent increase in anxiety disorders in adolescents as well.
There are three more workshops the district will hold before the year is out.