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Central Texas students struggle with mental health issues due to pandemic

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Posted at 11:21 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 00:21:32-05

Throughout these past several months, children have seen multiple schools and businesses close their doors. They've watch loved one's and others pass away due to COVID-19. It’s all taking a toll on them and their mental health.

Normally, kids in Central Texas, like 11-year-old Ronreco Foster, would be enjoying playing basketball and hanging out with his friends. But due to the pandemic, normal is no longer the same.

“Even though I’m home schooled, I was able to play with all my friends. I kind of miss them,” he said.

Ronreco knows avoiding his friends and others is helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“I can tell that he was really tired. He said I want to go out and do things,” said Ronreco’s mom, JoAnn Foster.

Local mental health experts say a number of students in the area have the same feelings as Ronreco and are seeking help for anxiety, depression and mental health problems related to the pandemic.

“The things that typify what depression is open can lead to depression,” said Texas A&M Central Texas Counseling and Psychology Department Assistant Professor Sam Fiala. “When you’re deprived of these social contacts, enjoyable experiences and things you typically enjoy that and kind of feed into depression.”

“You remove them from their peers, essential their home with other family and other caregivers. That’s socialization that they need in order to grow. They’re not getting that,” said Licensed Clinical Social Worker Kerry-Ann Zamore.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis found a rise in pediatric mental health-related emergency room visits for children needing mental health care. Local experts say it's important to help your kids find something positive or productive to focus on.

“I have a basketball hoop that I have on the door, so he plays basketball in the house so I can get his mind on things he likes to do,” said JoAnn. ”He wants to be a veterinarian, so allow him to watch YouTube. He likes spiders, so I allow him to watch videos.”

“Definitely develop a routine. Even if it’s an at-home routine develop some type of normalcy,” said Zamore.

Local mental health experts say teachers are also suffering from mental health problems after having to deal with the changes in school and worrying about the well-being of their students.

Fiala says Texas A&M Central Texas has a counseling center that offers free or low cost professionally staffed counseling services for adults, families, and kids. For more information click here.