|Print This Page Email to a Friend|
BIRMINGHAM – September can be a difficult month for children and teens, and it sometimes leads to an increase in calls to the Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) at Children’s of Alabama.
Cindy Jones, director of the PIRC, said this happens because the process of adjusting to a new school year is not always smooth, and kids may need help overcoming the psychological challenges that result.
“There are a lot of things that kids are experiencing,” Jones said. “They’re getting back to school, and they’re having to get back into a routine, and this is an adjustment because maybe they have been out of a routine prior to starting school.”
A new school year also brings new assignments and expectations. It reestablishes social connections with peers, which can be positive, but sometimes is not. In some cases, a young person may experience bullying. The weight of all these burdens can lead to mental health issues.
This year, young people are dealing with even more challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought about many questions and concerns of its own.
“A lot of kids get into school and they start experiencing increased levels of stress or anxiety,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty still because everyone’s trying to figure out how to be safe and healthy during this time.”
Whatever a child may be facing, they can find help at the PIRC. It’s a free, confidential psychiatric response center designed to assist adult callers and community providers with finding the appropriate level of mental health care. Parents or caregivers can call 205-638-PIRC (7472) every day from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and they’ll be connected with a licensed mental health professional who can provide them with the resources their child needs, whether it be contact information for a psychiatrist or mental health therapist or another form of assistance in their community.
Parents and caregivers often need assistance of their own, and the PIRC provides that, as well. When a caregiver calls the PIRC, the therapist will listen and provide them with education and support. Jones says it’s important for parents to set a good example for their children of what positive mental health looks like.
“Caregivers want to make sure that they are taking care of themselves,” Jones said. “They’re taking care of their children, but are they also taking care of themselves? Many times, children are looking to them as a role model, and so maintaining good, positive mental health for the parents or the caregivers is really important.”
Jones offers the following advice for parents as their children navigate the early stages of the school year.
If you’re wondering what the signs are that you child may be experiencing mental health challenges this year, here are some of the warning signs, according to Jones.
Jones says if your child is exhibiting the following behaviors, you should seek help immediately.
Take appropriate action. If your child shows any of these warning signs and you would like more information on mental health providers in your community, please call the Children’s of Alabama Psychiatric Intake Response Center at (205) 638-7472. If your child is in immediate danger, always call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room