How the COVID-19 pandemic took a mental toll on kids

'We are seeing a complete rise in anxiety and depression.'
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In one way or another, the pandemic has taken a toll on just about everybody, and children are no different.

From at-home learning to missing time with friends, kids, like adults, are facing new challenges these days.

"The longer we go, the longer that this can go without that social interaction that kids thrive on, that kids need. We could see long-lasting effects and determinants to our children," says Ana Boydstun, the Behavioral Health Manager in Child Psychiatry for Kaiser Permanente.

Boydstun says COVID-19 restrictions brought on a number of additional stressors this past year that could cause mood changes in some kids and subsequently cause them to fall into a deep depression if not treated properly.

"Maybe these kids that are normally very happy and social are now having anger outbursts. Just a significant shift in behavioral or emotional functioning, we definitely want to take notice of that," she says.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Officials with Kaiser say it is their goal to develop resources to tackle the mental health needs of everyone, particularly our youth.

That's why they've partnered with Family Foundations Counseling Services, a local school-based program that works with Fresno Unified to provide trauma-informed mental health counseling for students, their families, and school staff.

Executive Director Pearl Heppner says with the help from Kaiser, the healthcare provider has lent its support through established programs to meet needs in the district.

"We are seeing a complete rise in anxiety and depression," Heppner says.

If you see a change in your child's behavior, experts recommend talking to them about it and trying to understand what might be affecting them.

Most schools also offer free counseling on-campus.

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