Raleigh therapist says mental health crisis among kids is growing

Josh Chapin Image
Saturday, January 30, 2021
Raleigh therapist says mental health crisis among kids is growing
As we approach nearly a year under the pandemic, a Raleigh child therapist fears a mental health crisis among students who are unable to socialize due to the Stay-At-Home order.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- There's no smooth sailing for Jennifer Birch right now.

She's a therapist in Raleigh who deals exclusively with kids and says she has seen triple the caseload since the pandemic started.

Birch is also a mother of four herself -- three of whom are in the Wake County School System.

"It is hard to see my kids at home struggling because it's hard to see kids in the community struggling," she said

Birch has been planning to go to a "Reopen Schools" rally at the governor's mansion Saturday in downtown Raleigh.

She's also been writing to the Wake County School Board since December about the growing mental health crisis as a result of virtual learning.

"It's been tricky for everyone," she said. "We're all grasping and trying to figure out how not necessarily to do this successfully but to kind of get through it in a somewhat healthy way."

She's hopeful decision-makers can see the struggles both she and her own kids are going through.

In high school students she's treated, she's noted an uptick in anxiety, depression as well as suicidal thoughts. She said younger kids are acting out more, things are especially tough for kids with special needs.

A Holly Springs mother is pleading for schools to reopen after she was forced to quit her job because virtual learning was too much for her eight-year-old daughter with autism.

"We are all trying to do the best we can," she said.

Birch suggests these tips to help your kids:

  • Have them focus on things they can control since so many things can't be controlled
  • Try and get your kids to take "brain breaks" from the computer as well as "sensory breaks" outdoors
  • Finally, she suggests finding the right support system -- whether that's from a guidance counselor or even a school resource officer

Birch said she's hyper-aware of the teachers who are afraid to go back as well, both her mother and sister are Wake County teachers.

She said this is affecting kids widely, no matter their background.