Five days a week, sixth-grade student Rocco Testa leaves home to attend school in person in Little Falls, New Jersey. CBS News first met Testa last summer when he bravely spoke out about his mental health during the pandemic
“It’s just me who’s mad at the world and everything forand all that, ”he told CBS News’s Meg Oliver.
Like most children, Testa spent last spring indoors, learning at a computer. The isolation took its toll, but many of his frustrations faded after he returned in person this fall.
“Are you still mad at the world?” Oliver asked.
“No, not really at all,” he replied.
Rocco’s mother, Gina Testa, said she saw Rocco return to his usual state. He was excited again and got up in the morning to go to school. She is a guidance counselor in a nearby neighborhood where the school is only virtual
“My students are suffering. They are collapsing. I have parents who are on Zoom with me who are crying over what is going on with their children at home,” she said.
For many children, as the pandemic rages on, their mental health continues to suffer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that emergency departments saw a more than 30% increase in visits to children aged 12 to 17 for mental health reasons between April and October.
Across the country, millions of students still only attend school– According to Sherri Glassman, something school psychologists are contributing to the decline in mental health in children.
Glassman is a school psychologist in the District of Testa, where there is a hybrid program, which means some students in person and some are virtual.
“Our virtual students face a lot of isolation, a lot of screen exhaustion,” she says. Glassman attributes the improvement in Testa to early intervention, proactive parents and going back to school in person.
New Jersey pediatrician Dr Maria Yerovi said she gets “5-10 calls a day” from parents regarding children’s mental health. Most of the calls she receives are from children as young as kindergarten to college. She said there are certain signs parents should be on the lookout for if they suspect something is bothering their child.
“Not wanting to participate in activities, not wanting to eat or stay in your room, sleep.” Yerovi said.
In a survey conducted by Mental Health America in September, more than half of children between the ages of 11 and 17 reported having had thoughts of suicide or self-harming more than half or almost every day in the previous two weeks. According to the survey, they were also more likely than any other age group to have moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Yerovi said if parents suspected their children were at risk of injuring themselves or showing signs of depression, they should intervene and take them to hospital immediately.
“Get help. Call psychologists, call someone, get help for them and for the family, ”she says.
Testa said talking about his mental health made a big difference to him. He said it made him happy and felt like he was making a difference by telling his story. Her mother said keeping the conversation going, just like Rocco did, helps normalize the problem.
“Because it definitely normalizes those feelings. And it ends the stigma of mental health issues. There shouldn’t be any stigma around it. People need to talk about these things and know other people who are going through them. same things as them, ”she said.
Michael Tozzoli, clinician and CEO of the West Bergen Mental Health Center, told CBS News the health center was inundated with calls from parents of troubled children.
As the mental health crisis continues, Glassman said she hopes the return of the children in person is a priority.