Addressing children’s mental health as schools reopen, crowds return

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — From lockdowns to reopenings, from no crowds to tons of people, transitioning back is not always easy.

Kids across the valley have had a hard time with the past year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but all the changes happening right now are causing some concern, too. 

It all boils down to a simple fact: change is difficult. 

And that is especially true for our kids. That is why mental health nonprofits are making it clear to young people in need, as well as their parents, that there is help available.

Eight-year-old Las Vegan Nico Mariano has struggled with distance education during the pandemic, and like many across the valley, it has impacted his mental health. But what is happening now, as he and others return to the classroom, is also presenting some problems.

“Really dizzy. It’s like going over around in a circle,” Mariano shared.

Big changes can be a roller coaster for kids. Mariano hopes counseling through the nonprofit United Citizens Foundation, which focuses on children’s mental health, can make a difference for him.

“By helping me to be brave and breathe and to concentrate,” he said.

Mariano’s mother, Alana Sanfilippo, wants to see that, too.

“The earlier on that you learn, I feel like that will set him up for success in the future, with school, with relationships, with friends,” she said.

Crystal Acosta, a clinical professional counselor with United Citizens Foundation, works with about 30 kids every week. She says while resuming in-person learning and seeing Vegas come alive again is exciting for some kids, it can also cause anxiety for others.

“It’s like what’s it going to be like, plus all these COVID rules with, like, social distancing, wearing a mask, it’s not normal,” Acosta said.

But teaching kids deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises can help.

“We do skills that they can feel better and lower their anxiety while in the situation,” Acosta explained.

Mariano is ready to learn, and he is encouraging other kids in need to do the same:

“Everyone has their fears, and my family and friends must face their fears.”

United Citizens Foundation received some grant funding during the pandemic, so they say they can cover the cost for those who are uninsured. There are also other great resources across the Las Vegas valley for kids in need, including:

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