Amarillo health experts on psychological standpoint of masks and returning to school

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 8:35 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Many students are returning to in-person classes this year and parents and children are faced with uncertainty due to COVID-19.

“This year in particular, there are a lot of anxieties related to uncertainty, you know, what is what are the rules going to be? What, how am I going to be protected from COVID-19? Who might be sick, will I get sick, those types of things,” said Department Chair of Psychiatry at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), Dr. Sarah Wakefield.

In Amarillo, there is no mask mandate put in place for the schools, so parents are faced with the decision to send their child to school with a mask or without a mask.

Mental health experts say it is important for parents to have a conversation with their children about the upcoming school year.

“They can start by talking with their kids about why? why do they want their kids to wear the mask? really being open and honest and saying hey some of your friends may not be wearing masks and that’s alright we’re going to respect their decisions and allowing space for kids to ask questions,” said Dr. Dr. Meghan Marnell, Texas Tech Physicians Child and Adolescent Psychologist.

She said it is important for parents to explain to their child the reasoning for their decision as well.

“Whether you are sending your kid to school in a mask or you’re not sending your kid to school with a mask just really setting the tone and talking with your kids about hey this is how we’re going to do it in our family, but other people may do it differently and we really want to be respectful of that,” said Dr. Marnell.

One local Licensed Professional Counselor said she believes masks can affect the children’s learning development and that they are seeing an increase in depression and anxiety especially in young children.

“We are seeing an increase in things like tics, which is involuntary movements in children due to anxiety, we’re seeing trichotillomania going up quite a bit that’s the plucking out of hair, we’re seeing fear of going out into public and then significant depression increases,” said Amber Eddins, LPC.

She believes we have been focusing on the physical effects of COVID-19, but not the mental health effects.

Eddins mentions mask-wearing has also created a sense of responsibly for children causing more anxiety as well.

“They are somehow part of the problem if they don’t wear a mask or they are responsible for keeping their friends well by wearing a mask, and that is not a responsibility that children should ever have put on them,” said Eddins.

They believe families should decide the best option for their family regarding masks and then speak to their child and teach them to understand why that decision was made.

Dr. Marnell also mentions she wants parents to understand although it is important to encourage their child to wear a mask if that is the decision they make, but to remember they cannot control everything and the child may choose to remove it.

Mental health experts also say to monitor their children’s behaviors and pay attention to when it may be time to seek professional help.

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