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NewsChannel 7 hosts Mental Health Town Hall

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 3:31 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Previously published on May 21, 2020

COVID-19 is taking its toll on many, but its effects on some of our youngest and most vulnerable population could outlast the pandemic.

That’s why here at NewsChannel 7 partnered with Big Bend Community Based Care and held a one of its kind town hall on May 21, 2020, addressing the serious issue.

“We were approached by mental health experts in our town and they said ‘is there anything that you can do to help us get the word out and to normalize this?’” Anchor Jessica Foster said.

The town hall discussed mental health among our youngest population during unprecedented times.

“So important to have this discussion because we’ve experienced a lot in this Bay County community in the last 18 months,” Susanna Clark, LCSW, National Trainer with Mental Health First Aid USA, said.

The issue is personal for many on our staff who are mothers, fathers, and grandparents themselves.

“My little girl is only seven years old and the last two school years have been interrupted for her, first with Hurricane Michael and now with this pandemic and so explaining those things- that’s difficult,” Foster said.

Four local professionals gathered in our studio for a comprehensive live discussion. But it wasn’t all about the children, it was about the parents too.

“The first thing that parents need to remember is that they’re not teachers, and no one is really expecting them to be a teacher,” Ken Chisholm, LMHC, with the Bay District Schools Mental Health Team, said. “That’s what they have the teachers for, right?”

A key takeaway? Knowing the signs and symptoms of a mental health issue and how to help.

“Look for a change. Look for a change in sleeping, eating. Maybe our child was outgoing and very talkative but they’ve become more quiet,” Clark said.

“I think that in helping kids understand that this is a change that everyone is going through and that we’re going to get through it and they are there to help them and to reassure their children that things are ok. Give them that hope- hope is very important,” Chisholm said.

While the psychological aftermath of COVID-19 is still unknown, perhaps the best thing we can do is have a conversation.

“But I believe that if we do what we need to do now to help take care of them it’ll have less of an impact long term,” Chisholm said.

“The main message that we wanted to get out today is that mental health is just as important as your physical health. It’s nothing to be ashamed of if you need help, and we just encourage everyone to reach out and know that you are not alone,” Clark said.

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