EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – As COVID-19 rates continue to decline, health experts are hopeful about the direction of the pandemic. Sill, these past two years have been tough, especially on children. One mental health expert said the last few years may have fueled another concern.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in mental health concerns, not just anxiety but also depression,” said Dr. Zakia Alavi, a child psychiatrist.

Dr. Alavi is also with Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. She said as children deal with adjusting back to the classroom setting, some are showing temporary developmental issues like signs of anxiety while others are showing signs of longer lasting mood disorders.

“We are definitely seeing a spike in both. You know, the regular adjustment types of issues that come up after a long time of not being in school but then we’re seeing some very specific mood disorders and anxiety disorders,” she said.

She said two years of limited social gatherings and closed clinics may have prevented some mental health concerns from being caught earlier, leading to larger issues like severe depression, anxiety and concentration difficulty.

She added that some patients appeared to have improved during the pandemic. She said children that were existing patients and with support back home, had better symptoms that she attributed to having simpler routines. Dr. Alavi explained, in contrast, new patients were suffering more severe symptoms.

Yet both groups are seeing an uptick in symptoms as they returned to more social settings. She explained if that feeling of anxiety or irritability remains after a while, it could be a sign of longer term issue.

But what can parents do to help? She said rebuilding a routine, open communication and time together are all important. But step one is helping yourself and others as people rebuild their own daily patterns.

“This is super important, you know, kids will do just as well or as poorly as their parents do, so supporting the parents,” she said.

 Dr. Alavi said that can be as simple as reaching out to your network of friends and family or even professional help.