PINEVILLE -- McDonald County High School counselor Courtni Fickle and school liaison Erica Price have noted a change in student mental health during covid-19, namely, an increase in student anxiety and depression. Fickle and Price offer tips and warning signs for decreasing student mental health.
Fickle, a counselor at MCHS, said she has seen an increase in student anxiety in the high school over the past two years. Fickle said some causes for increased anxiety are rooted in students feeling uncomfortable adjusting from virtual schooling to in-person schooling and students fearing being behind in school after having to undergo quarantine.
"A lot of kids are wanting to go home and do the home options, and then I feel like, once that becomes a thing, they're losing their social aspect of high school -- which I think it's really important to have that," Fickle said. "And I feel like when they go home like that, maybe they're not as anxious, but they're lonely and depressed because they're at home for months without having any social interaction face-to-face."
Fickle said signs that may point to a decline in mental health include behavior changes, student withdrawal, students talking less than their norm, a decline in academic performance, and significant appearance changes. Fickle said if students are feeling a decline in their mental health, they should reach out to a trusted high school employee.
"At the high school level, or in any level of school, really, students should reach out to the person that they trust first," Fickle said. "Teachers, counselors, principals, peers, and just ask for some tips."
Fickle said tips she often gives students facing anxiety include using a planner and becoming more organized, creating an "anxious list" to affirm what can be controlled and what cannot, speaking with a trusted adult, breathing exercises and grounding exercises.
Erica Price, MCHS liaison, said she noticed a dark cloud over the student body last year. Price said she feels that, this year, students and student families are more willing to seek help, leaving Price's list of referrals for students facing mental health issues at an all-time high. Price said some causes of increased student anxiety are students possibly having to quarantine and the uncertainty that comes with covid-19.
Price said, when she is approached by students needing additional guidance, she aids students in the process of finding therapists that fit their needs and the needs of the family, as well. Price noted she's also part of a "handle with care" program, where student families can alert Price that a student may be facing a day filled with heightened anxiety or pressure.
Price said one of the best things parents can do when noticing a decline in their child's mental health is to listen to their child.
"I really feel like the best thing to do is listen," Price said. "And ask questions and form a connection with them if you're wanting to know at home what is the best thing they can do. And they need to seek out resources."
Price said any students facing mental health issues, or parents that suspect mental health issues in their students, can contact her at the school or at [email protected]
Fickle said all students should know that, if they need additional guidance, it's not embarrassing -- no student will be in trouble -- and it's very important that students reach out if they need help.