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Psychologist wants to see children back in the classroom this fall

Dr. Kiran Pure says students should go back to in-school learning, but it needs to be done in a way that is safe and doesn't exacerbate anxiety
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(stock photo)
A child psychologist in Dartmouth says the combination of social isolation, and a lack of control caused by the pandemic has been damaging to children's mental health.

Dr. Kiran Pure says she would like to see students return to school this fall in some sort of capacity to provide them with a sense of normalcy.

"For many kids going to school, even if they don't love schoolwork, they do love the routine of being in school, being with their friends, seeing their teachers, just hanging out and sharing what they are doing," she says.

Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill has said three back-to-school options are on the table: total in-class learning with physical distancing, rotating days between going to school and working from home, and full-time virtual schooling.

According to the provincial government, the plan will be communicated to the public by the end of the month, but Dr. Pure says parents and their children shouldn't have to wait.

"We need to have open discussion between people like parents, teachers, and government, and just have transparent collaboration on the possibilities," she says. "I think parents need to have an answer sooner rather than later because there is a lot of anxiety being created by yet another unknown."

Dr. Pure says it could be dangerous to keep children away from their peers for too long.

"Younger kids have been very good at understanding what this is about, and following the rules, but coping with it for a prolonged period of time without connection with friends which is very developmentally important, that has been very hard for them," she says.

During the pandemic Dr. Pure says she has seen an increase in reported anxiety, depression, and saddness among her clients, along with suicide attempts.

"In the last three months, I've seen six serious suicide attempts by teenagers," she says. "That level of intensity is relatively new to me to see that many in such a short period of time."

She says she strongly believes children should go back to school, but it needs to be done in a safe way that doesn't exacerbate anxiety and mental health issues.

"The most important thing is that public health measures are in place to get children and teachers back to school," she says. "But they need to go back with lots of provisions in place that make them feel secure."

Katie Hartai

About the Author: Katie Hartai

In addition to being a reporter for NEWS 95.7 and HalifaxToday.ca, Katie is the producer of The Rick Howe Show
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