SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Local schools say more kids are reaching out for mental health services at a time when therapists are hard to find.

Fayetteville and Springdale Public Schools said they’ve seen an increase in mental health strain among their students.

Monitor Elementary School Counselor, Sierra Engelmann, said classrooms are filled with more anxiety than ever before. According to Engelmann, a lot of the anxiety stems from kids feeling as though they can’t push through a problem, but she said the biggest thing kids want right now, is to feel safe.

“We’ve seen students younger and younger have negative self-thoughts, thoughts of harming themselves, and as a school counselor, that’s very concerning to me,” Engelmann said.

Engelmann cares for 450 students, which is the standard set by the state. Although, that ratio is much lower than the 250-to-one recommended by the American School Counselor Association.

So, when a student has a more in-depth need, Engelmann said she refers them to outside therapy companies, but said the companies are struggling to hire enough therapists.

So she’s helping to equip teachers with tools to dedicate more classroom time to help students regulate their emotions. Engelmann is focusing more on preventative efforts, in hopes of reducing the number of students in need.

Declining mental health is causing more student outbursts and disrespectful behavior, according to Engelmann, and is pushing more teachers to ask for mental health support as well.

Engelmann urges parents to step in by not allowing social media until eighth grade, in order to promote more in-person interaction and prevent kids from comparing themselves to people they see online. She’s also encouraging parents to help their kids to fight through uncomfortable emotions and try new things.