Seminole County counselors address ‘increase in mental health challenges’ among students

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County school district leaders say more and more students are requiring mental health services.

The Seminole County Public Schools added a mental health team to its staff in 2018. Right now, there are 28 mental health counselors on staff. That’s in addition to more than 100 certified school counselors, psychologists and social workers who also support the mental health of students.

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“We’ve definitely seen a huge increase of kids popping up at our offices needing help adjusting to the added stress of this year,” said lead mental health counselor Cassandra Palmer. “Lots of kids are struggling with anxiety as it relates to the pandemic, academic anxiety, the socialization aspect. They want to be with their friends and it’s hard right now (with) limited contact.”

Palmer wants parents to know there is support for their children who may have trouble adapting to all the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s definitely been an increase in mental health challenges. When we went from face-to-face learning to distance learning, a lot of kids had difficulty adapting,” Palmer said.

Palmer said there are signs parents can look out for when it comes to their child’s mental health:

  • Changes in mood and behavior

  • Isolation from family and friends

  • Lack of interest in activities

  • Lower grades in school

  • Reports of anxiety

Palmer said when it comes to standardized testing that’s coming up, parents should be supportive to help alleviate some of the stress students are facing this time of year.

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“The most important thing is to just remind them to do their best and that as a family you’ll deal with the results as they come, whether it’s good or bad,” Palmer said.

The Seminole County Public Schools started a virtual mental health forum for parents. The program lasts 10 weeks, with each session addressing a different topic. The forum is hosted by one of the district’s mental health counselors.

“It has two parts. One part is an information session, giving parents skills and information. The second part is a discussion, giving parents the opportunity to connect virtually and share their experiences so they know they’re not alone,” Palmer said.

The forum is free and is held virtually every Tuesday at 6 p.m. Click here to register.

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