Pediatric Psychologist talks kids, teens mental health as school year begins

Dr. Briggs says students who have experienced traumatic events, like the flooding, may need more attention

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Pediatric Psychologist Dr. Alissa Briggs says suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24-years-old.

And as students start to return to school, Dr. Briggs emphasizes the importance of checking on students mental health.

Across the country, school shootings have devastated communities, as others continue to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, and, more recently the Eastern Kentucky flooding, uprooting countless lives.

The mental impact these traumatic events can have on children and teens, Dr. Briggs says is huge.

“The stress response that is often missed is the fight mode because the kids are acting out, they’re engaging in high risk behavior, they’re driving us nuts and often times we forget to stop and think that some of these behaviors are driven by emotional stress” said Dr. Briggs.

Another response could be refusal to attend school, but Dr. Briggs says the last thing parents should do is keep their kids at home.

She says school is a great supportive factor for kids right now, with the social aspect of it, and the safety protocols and resources schools have in place.

But, students who have experienced traumatic events, like the flooding, may need more attention.

“It’s going to be challenging, kids may be behind, they may have challenges related to anxiety and depression, they may have more behavioral issues” added Dr. Briggs.

She says its important to make sure you are talking with your kids,  asking them how they are doing, feeling, acknowledging the traumatic event, and helping them think positively.

“Rather than focusing on ‘We’re going to be behind this year’, think about ‘Okay if we come together in a supportive way and provide the resources needed to support these families and communities and healing what could things look like 5 years from now?” added Dr. Briggs.

Dr. Briggs added if your child or teenager is experiencing mental health issues, to also contact a pediatrician or school counselor.

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