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Mental Health Seminars Help Parents During Pandemic

Irving—Plymouth Park United Methodist Church hosted the first event in the “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay” parenting seminar series on Tuesday, Feb. 8. This series is a collaboration with The Center for Integrative Counseling and Psychology and the Irving Schools Foundation.

The four seminars focus on helping parents understand mental health issues their children may be facing due to the pandemic.

The first seminar focused on different kinds of mental health issues and how they may have developed or worsened for young people during the pandemic.

“As we have worked with kids and students, we have seen some of the [mental health] effects,” Jack Payne, director of Youth Ministries at Plymouth ParkUnited Methodist Church, said. “Those effects are going to be seen for years and years to come. Part of our job is to walk alongside students and their parents as the parents raise their kids.”

Isolation and constant video calls have been slowly wearing on students. After noticing the need for mental health help, the church created this event to provide resources people in the community.

“Part of [adapting to the pandemic] was growing,” Krista Bailey, director of Children’s Ministry, said. “Not just in faith, but in social, mental and emotional skills with the kids we serve. Not just inside of our church, but in the community.”

Dr. Brad Schwall, president and CEO of The Center for Integrative Counseling and Psychology, defined a few major mental illnesses and their characteristics.

“Our focus was on taking what the community’s concerns are and providing some practical background information,as well as practical steps to encouraging mental health and well-being in our community,” Schwall said.

He said there has been an increase in demand for services provided by the center in the past couple of years.

Schwall explained concerns about becoming sick with COVID-19 may be more intense for people diagnosed with anxiety due to a “propensity for worry.” He said isolation can worsen feelings of depression.Many kids have a support system through friends and teachers at school they were not able to access in the same way when classes were online. A few signs of depression are changes in appetite and sleep habits, low energy and a lack of pleasure in activities that would normally be pleasurable.

Schwall concluded the seminar by telling attendees about a strategy called emotion coaching. When a child is having some sort of problem, the adult should validate their feelings.Adultsshould not deny or punish children’s feelings.

“Kids are resilient,” Schwall said. “The same positive habits that helped pre-pandemic help now.”

“We hope people walk away knowing they’re not alone and there are resources out there,” Payne said. “[Parents can see] the reality that there’s more than one person there, and they can see their student’s not the only one facing this issue.It’s pretty much a worldwide thing.”

The second seminar will take place on March 8, focusing on parenting differently during the pandemic. All events will be hosted at Plymouth Park United Methodist Church.