Local doctor says there’s been an increased need for mental health services for students during pandemic

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(WIVB) – A Western New York doctor says there’s been a high demand for mental health services from students during the pandemic.

“We’re in the fall, facing winter and I think folks are struggling a little more and we’re trying to find ways that we can make sure that we’re available to them and continue to be helpful,” said child and adolescent psychiatrist at Kaleida Health and UB Sourav Sengupta.

Nicole Strzalkowski says she’s noticed her son, who’s a 7th grader at West Seneca Middle School, has had a hard time concentrating on his school work.

“He didn’t seem like he was fully there, like I could hear him responding but he looked like he was off in another world, like he was just off in space,” she said.

She believes it has a lot to do with his remote learning.

“Most kids are like yea ok we don’t have to be in school. I don’t have to be in school. He’s like no I need to be in school,” she said. “It really breaks my heart because he’s a very bright kid.”

Strzalkowski says her son is seeing a counselor and she’s hoping he’ll be back in the classroom for in-person learning soon.

Doctor Sengupta says this situation is becoming more common.

“At Oishei Children’s Hospital we’re seeing more folks coming in with kind of more urgent or in crisis oriented situations,” he said. “When we’re out in the outpatient clinics we’re definitely seeing pandemic related stress kind of weave into all of the different things that our kids were already sort of already potentially dealing with.”

To help relieve stress, he suggests parents have a family game night, or go outside and do something that’s active such as going on a walk. He added that parents should reach out to their school if they notice their kids are struggling with their mental health and seek extra guidance either from the school or a health professional.

“This is a high stress period, certainly for kids but for parents, for families for our community,” he said. “It’s a good reminder that we’ve got to work together to get through it.”

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