FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – For many kids in Northwest Arkansas, school starts next week. Some kids and teachers may facing more than just back-to-school jitters.

Many kids develop nervousness before that first day of school, but big events like COVID-19 and recent mass shootings have taken a toll on the mental health of children.

“With our climate today, whether it be COVID or safety within our schools or teacher shortages, there’s all kinds of stressors that show up in our kiddos,” said Chief Clinic Officer for Eason Counseling and Associates, Emily Brandt.

Brandt said she’s seen a large increase in mental health cases among kids.

“We’ve seen a big spike in anxiety and depression, stress, changes in behavior,” said Brandt.

Jennifer Coldiron works as the director of school outreach and training for the school based division of Ozark Guidance. She said while sometimes professional help is needed, taking care of their bodies is a good place to start.

“Focus on the good news. The good news is an acronym for nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. So, sometimes we just need to get back to focusing on those basics,” said Coldiron.

She said exercise is also something that could be really beneficial day-to-day.

“There’s actually been studies in the last decade that link exercise to more long-term relief from symptoms such as depression,” said Coldiron.

Ozark Guidance School Based Services are designed to help students and families with emotional and behavioral health. They support students in pre-k through 12th grade with anger, anxiety, ADHD, childhood trauma, and depression, among other things.

The services host counseling services in over 150 schools across 16 school districts in Arkansas. Arisa Health is offering on-line parenting education virtually on the 2nd Tuesday of each month from 6 pm to 7pm. You can find those resources here. Parents can preregister to receive a link to the virtual education.

Brandt said as the school year kicks off, it’s important to understand when your kid is silently seeking help.

“If you’re concerned about your kid, don’t brush it under the rug. Don’t be afraid to address the topic directly and say, with love and compassion, I’m worried about you or concerned about you,” said Brandt.

Teachers have their own struggles to deal with Brandt recently held a presentation with Bentonville School teachers, addressing the need to take care of themselves.

“How do we regulate ourselves before we can regulate the rest of our classroom? So, not being afraid to stop and take a deep breath,” said Brandt.

While some students and teachers may feel isolated with their mental health concerns, Brandt reinforces taking action.

“It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to reach out for help,” said Brandt.