Maryville school counselor sees major uptick in mental health cases

At one Maryville City School, John Sevier Elementary, counselors say up to 15% of students need additional counseling to what they get in class due to the pandemic creating mental health problems.
Up to 15 percent of students need additional counseling
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 9:00 PM EST
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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - At one Maryville City School, John Sevier Elementary, counselors said up to 15% of students need additional counseling to what they get in class due to the pandemic creating mental health problems.

“My little ones have been through a lot of stress,” said Dr. Kim Prater who works with pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade students at John Sevier Elementary. “It has been a chronic trauma and it’s going to effect kids differently.”

Prater works with a class every seven school days.

“What I’ve seen is their response to the family changes and maybe lack of socialization and connection that they would normally, typically get. And that might show up with increased irritability,” she explained.

The class makes students feel “calm” and “happy” Kindergarteners Sam Lambert and Emilia Brushaber told WVLT News.

Students learn courage, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion in action.

“They’re learning to use their words to talk about what they’re feeling and what they need. So we spend a lot of time working on those resiliency skills,” Prater said.

She took big concepts and broke them up into bite size pieces. Since these young brains don’t know what the amygdala is, she calls it the guard dog. So when kids have bad feelings and stress reactions, she explained it to them as the guard dog is barking.

“Then we say we need your wise owl to come back and help you think of a solution and that’s the pre-frontal cortex part of their brain and they’ll realize they can’t think and learn when that guard dog is barking,” Prater said.

She said other tactics parents can try with their kids included modeling behavior and words their kids are learning in school, taking deep breaths and showing their kids that no one is perfect.

“When kids feel that way they can weather the storms that come through their lives. That’s our goal,” Prater said.

There will be a workshop on Thursday for all Maryville City Schools elementary school parents to help better understand children’s mental health.

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