PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — As children head back to school, their mental health is top of mind for many parents and educators.

What You Need To Know

  •  A mental health emergency was declared by some agencies last fall

  •  Pinellas schools are working to help address mental health

A national health emergency in youth mental health was declared by several agencies last fall.

Pinellas County Schools is working to offer more support by bringing more providers to their schools.

Spectrum News caught up with a support service team and the principal at Cypress Woods Elementary School while they were assembling new intervention materials for the new year.

“It has a couple of tips for teachers to build positive relationships with students and how to handle and incorporate positive interventions for behaviors in the classroom,” said Taryn Ecker, School Psychologist.

That intervention is increasing this year in Pinellas County Schools by adding more social workers and psychologists.

Sarah Schutz, a social worker who is new to the Cypress Woods campus, says she has concerns about what students missed while out of the classroom during the pandemic.

“The more student services we have, the better able we are to fill in the gaps and piece together what they missed at that time, and be able to kind of fill the circle that makes for friendships and being able to bounce back after things, resiliency, things like that,” said Schutz.

Extra support means Taryn Ecker, a school psychologist who was previously split between two schools, will stay at Cypress. She says it will give her more time to focus on individual student time and intervention.

“After the pandemic, we saw an increase in student anxiety and depression and changes in financial resources for families, and so it gives us more time to help support our students and our families, and build those connections and those relationships,” said Ecker.

Connections and communication — at a time when going to school can be scary.

“Communication is huge, so if parents are seeing that with their students to communicate that with their classroom teachers, with the school,” said Ecker.

Counselor Laura Trudell says a team is working together to help support students.

“We all play a unique role and have different support skills to help the whole child and foster the whole picture of learning and development,” said Trudell.

That support helps children concentrate on learning, while knowing there’s somewhere to turn if and when they need it.