By: ‘hood Magazine with Patti Lake-Torbert, Senior Coordinator of Student Support Services at the Sioux Falls School District 

What does mental health encompass? 

Mental health is more than just when we are struggling. You can draw a similarity between mental health and physical health. Just as you watch what you eat, your movement, and the environment for your physical body, it’s the same for mental health—learning how to care for ourselves to keep our minds healthy.  

Depression and anxiety are the most common things when we talk about mental health struggles, but there could be more to it once you start digging deeper. Things like trauma or life situations could be the root cause. 

What are you seeing from kids in school right now? What might be the cause? 

Since COVID, things have changed a bit. In younger children, they used to be quiet when they struggled, but now we see more acting out, anger, frustration, and anxiety. Middle and high school teens are dealing with depression and anxiety. Because these conversations around mental health are happening, our students are opening up more about their struggles. 

School offers structure, which is a benefit for many children. When COVID came, that structure went away. With parents and guardians working from home and becoming overloaded themselves, kids went more into gaming, social media, and screen time. These are all things we now know that can negatively impact mental health. 

How can parents help their children? 

Start the conversation now and make them a part of your daily discussions when your child isn’t struggling. We know kids listen and watch their parents, so we must ensure we model healthy behaviors. Share a situation you’ve experienced, how it made you feel, and how you handled it. Then ask what they might do and feel.  

If your child needs assistance, contact the school counselor in their building and share your concerns. Do not be afraid to ask questions, like how are things in school for my child or what mental health supports are available. While the counselors do not do therapy, they provide support (academic, career, and social) and can direct parents to agencies if they want further assistance. 

If your child starts to see a therapist, it is crucial to connect and process their session with them, which will help the parent/guardian see what the child needs. 

What resources are out there for families?  

Helpline Center 

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 

Family Forum: 

Any final words of wisdom to share? 

Talk with them in a preventative way and share what you’ve gone through in life. Spend time with your kids in any type of activity away from screen time and social media. And let them know that you are there for them no matter what happens.