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Commentary: Help available for the asking

Back to school considerations for people coping with stress and anxiety

The return of students, teachers and staff to Alberta schools after six months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic represents an important step on the road to a hoped-for return to normalcy for the community-at-large.

For Alberta’s students, the chance to reacquaint with classmates and other friends after months of relative isolation is no doubt welcome.

Unfortunately, the return to school during the pandemic may also lead to increased anxiety and stress for some young people and adults too, according to the province’s chief medical officer of health.

During a recent press conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said it is vitally important that the mental health of students, teachers and others be protected and cared for over the coming weeks and months.

“COVID has exacerbated or triggered anxiety for many people and re-entering school is a time of significant change for all those involved,” said Hinshaw. “Change and uncertainty naturally bring on anxiety.

“If you have a family member or friend who you think might be suffering from anxiety, depression or any other burden, reach out to them proactively to let them know that you are thinking about them.”

She encouraged anyone who needs extra support in this time of transition to reach out to formal or informal supports, including by calling or texting Kids Help Line at 1-800-668-6868 or Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.

School divisions are making a concerted effort to ensure the physical protection of everyone in the school community by following social distancing rules, using masks when necessary, and promoting hand-washing and other measures.

Those efforts, both in schools and in the community-at-large, should be applauded.

At the same time, it is vital that the mental health of everyone living through the COVID-19 pandemic also be protected and supported.

As such, anyone who knows someone who may be experiencing heightened stress and anxiety during the pandemic should speak up and let them know that help is available for the asking.

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.