Children's Mental Health Post-Pandemic

Lisa Larsen, LPC
As we approach three full years post-pandemic, the mental health concerns and needs of our children and adolescents across the country have reached an all time high. Post-traumatic stress related to the upheaval of home to school learning, the isolation and even loss of family members, the unpredictability of everyday life, addressing the virus itself, as well the delay of social and emotional skill development has created a tremendous need for mental health services and support. 

St. Gabriel’s welcomed Dr. Ryan Brown, a Psychiatrist from the Dell Children’s Hospital and the Texas Child Study Center, to speak to parents and students. Dr. Brown addressed the current needs in the Austin area around mental health services as well as tools and strategies for helping our kids focus on their wellness, including how to address difficult feelings and challenges.

Communicating openly and honestly with adults they trust was key. Parents must be available to listen first when children approach with worries and concerns. Focusing on good sleep, nutrition, doing things that bring joy with friends and family, and setting clear parameters around technology were some of the strategies he recommended. Dr. Brown shared some of the incredible research being conducted at the Dell Medical School here in Austin and the many resources available to our community and families. (Check out: )

Besides the most obvious support for children, their parents and families, the adults at school (teachers, staff, counselors and administrators) can also be some of the most important resources for kids and teens facing emotional concerns and challenges. As a school with an SEL focus, St. Gabriel's is particularly equipped with supporting the well-being of our students, sharing on a daily basis how students are feeling as well as having deep and meaningful conversations and relationships with their school family. Problem solving with peers and finding healthy ways to feel empowered over their lives academically and socially is a foundation of what we do each and every day. Our students actively participate in practicing those SEL skills that impact all areas of their daily lives as well as their mental health by teaching them how to manage and reach out for help when needed. 

As parents, I encourage you to reach out to your child’s teacher, advisor, division head, or to me if you notice concerning behaviors, have worries about how to best support your child, or how to help them help themselves. Our school works as a close team of caregivers to support any concerns that might arise with any student and together in partnership with each of you, create plans of success academically and emotionally. If we believe additional support is needed, we can help connect you to a variety of community professionals trained to work with children and adolescents and parents. 

The value placed on meeting children where they are holistically (mind/body/spirit) is a key component of our mission. We are very blessed to have such a caring, attentive school community in which we cherish the healthy development of every child. 

Lisa Hellmer, LPC
St Gabriel’s Counselor
St. Gabriel's Catholic School is an Independent Catholic school in Austin TX, educating children in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school.