SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Online bullying, the effects of the pandemic and an increase in school threats are just some of the issues kids are dealing with in today’s society.

As the school year winds down, students’ mental health remains a concern for schools across the Ozarks.

Clever High School Counselor Melissa Kirkbride says that at the end of the day, she wants students to know that her office will always be a safe place to let their voices be heard.

“They are exposed to more stressors at younger and younger ages than I think people ever realize is going on,” Kirkbride said.

She said that what is most important is listening to the student and being there for them in a time of need.

Social media and anxiety are just a few things that Kirkbride says affect students’ mental health.

The pandemic also took a toll because, for at least two years, many students were learning from home and not able to interact with others and build up their social skills.

I asked Kirkbride about a few different ways parents can try to get their child to open up about their mental health and she says it starts with the language that’s used.

“So one, think about how we talk when they’re listening and just in general to try to be more respectful of that mental health is a medical disorder and we should be making it easier for people to come forward and talk about it than feel like they’re going to be mocked for it,” said Kirkbride.

She says a few other ways to connect with your child is to simply ask how their day went.

Ask them who their friends are and show interest in things that your child may like.

She says by doing these things, it will allow your child to open up and feel more comfortable talking about issues they may have.

Kirkbride says school should be the one place where everyone feels safe.