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'A Lot Of Anxiety,' Some School Districts Get Extra Student Counseling Help From Local Mental Health Providers

CHATHAM (CBS) - Figuring out complicated new schedules, and meeting lots of new kids, students at Monomoy Middle School got to check out their new school a week before classes started.

And while kids get used to being in the hallways, teachers are getting ready to assess where they are academically and mentally.

According to Melissa Maguire, the head of student services in the district, school counselors are always busy, but this year they expect to see even more kids struggling.

"A lot of anxiety," she told WBZ-TV. "Especially if you already had social anxiety. And a lot of kids are actually afraid of COVID."

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show mental health emergencies spiked during the pandemic, up 24% among kids between 5 and 11 years old. The increase was even higher for adolescents 12-to-17, with incidents rising 31%.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

A few weeks after school starts, kids at Monomoy, which serves Chatham and Harwich will take a mental health assessment. According to Maguire there are 46 questions including - Are you struggling? Do you have an adult you can go to if you do not feel safe? Have you ever thought of harming yourself?

"It's a live survey, so I can see the responses immediately," Maguire said.

That's when school counselors step in to help. And for additional support, about 60 schools, including those in the Monomoy district, partner with Gosnold Behavioral Health System in Falmouth.

"I think we are going to be incredibly busy," said Melissa Hyer-Mitchell, a clinical manager at Gosnold. She advises parents to be on the lookout for signs their child is struggling. Common warning signs include disrupted sleep, a change in appetite and irritability.

"For kids it's hard to put into words… so it comes out in those behaviors," she said.

Counselors at Gosnold say working with some students while they were learning remotely was tricky because kids were reluctant to open up with their family nearby.

"We are really hoping that this year, being able to go back into schools and work with them, we will be able to reach more students," explained Gosnold's Chief Clinical Officer Allie Anderson.

According to Maguire, if parents think their child needs help, check with their school. Guidance and adjustment counselors are a great place to find the best mental health resources.

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