Stay Healthy, Sunshine: Mental Health & COVID-19 Resources For The New School Year

September 1, 2022

As schools open across Florida, it’s important for parents, teachers and adults who work with children to stay aware of the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on youth mental health. Many people have struggled with their mental health during the COVID-19 Pandemic, children and teens are no exception. Pre-Pandemic mental health symptoms were already significantly on the rise among our nation’s youth and the COVID-19 Crisis has only escalated the issue.

The Health Council of Southeast Florida is bringing awareness to the public that numerous resources exist to help families have an important conversation or find assistance for mental health and wellness. A new interactive and supportive tool for kids is the CDC’s How Right Now Online Guide: https://www.cdc.gov/howrightnow/index.html and helps kids identify how they’re feeling at any given moment and points them to additional resources for handling emotions like fear, grief, anger and sadness.

“We want people to know they are not alone in experiencing changes to their mental health or seeing worrisome changes in their children. The important thing is to remember there is help all around. Early intervention gives young people and the adults in their lives the right tools to cope and heal from the current anxieties and traumas they are suffering,” says Andrea Stephenson, Chief Executive Officer for the Health Council of Southeast Florida and sponsor of Florida’s Local Health Councils’ COVID-19 Community Awareness Campaign, “Stay Healthy, Sunshine.”

Ms. Stephenson noted to consult your child’s pediatrician, school counselor and local children’s mental health centers for expert guidance and support. Numerous free online resources exist such as those offered by the CDC and the National Association of School Psychologists, which created their supportive site “Helping children cope with changes resulting from COVID-19” at: www.nasponline.org

Along with promoting mental health and wellbeing, “Stay Healthy, Sunshine,” encourages continuous health education and Vaccination as “your brightest bet” to proactively reduce the risk of severe health symptoms and hospitalizations that have occurred in Unvaccinated patients. At the campaign’s website: https://www.stayhealthysunshine.org/ and all visitors will find a reliable source of updated information and facts, a Vaccination Finder Link, a list of Florida’s 11 Local Health Councils and connections to assistance for COVID-19-Related Needs.

In addition to buying pencils, notebooks and putting school clothes in order, getting kids Vaccinated against COVID-19 is an essential step for getting back into the classroom. All children 6 months and older are eligible for COVID-19 Vaccines, children ages 5 and older who have already been Vaccinated are eligible for a Booster for continued protection.

“Being in school, interacting with other students and teachers and participating in extracurricular activities are important to the overall well-being of kids,” said Dr. Kenneth Alexander, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Nemours Children’s Health in Orlando, Florida. “Vaccinations are the best way to protect kids of all ages from COVID-19 and the best way to make sure they stay engaged in the classroom and activities they need and enjoy.”

Parents should know that getting children Vaccinated will:
• Protect their child. Getting Vaccinated can help prevent serious illness and keep children learning in-person for the entire school year. COVID-19 Vaccines were developed with safety as a top priority and side effects are generally mild, if they occur at all.

• Protect the whole family, including vulnerable members of the household. Getting Vaccinated protects children, relatives and other care providers in the household, as well as other friends and loved ones, children spend time with.

• Help avoid interruptions to in-person learning. Asymptomatic, Vaccinated close contacts may not need to quarantine at home following an exposure to someone with COVID-19. Getting Vaccinated helps students and staff remain safely in school.

• Help prevent extracurriculars, sports and other activities from getting canceled. Activities like sports, band and chorus can be safer and more likely to continue uninterrupted if all participants are up to date with COVID-19 Vaccines.

• Allow children to keep doing the things they love. Getting Vaccinated can keep children from missing out on the fun of childhood—like sleepovers, birthday parties, sporting events and more.

As children get back to the classroom, they may be exposed to COVID-19 more often. Parents can consider providing their child a comfortable, well-fitting mask to wear for additional protection. Parents should also keep kids home and get them tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who tested positive.

Vaccines are available at no cost to everyone aged 6 months or older living in the United States, no matter their immigration or health insurance status.

No matter your concern, there are resources available to help guide parents when dealing with their child's physical and mental health wellbeing for the new school year. For Vaccination information for your child, visit: https://www.stayhealthysunshine.org and for mental health resources visit: https://www.cdc.gov/howrightnow/index.html