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How local schools are prioritizing students' mental health during the pandemic

Although the schools' doors are closed, some school counselors are taking extra time to make sure their students are being heard.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Mental health is a major factor for everyone dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. 

Health experts want to remind you, social distancing doesn't mean social dis-engagement. 

For the Pulaski County Special School District's counselors, they are taking this extra time away from the classroom to make sure their students are being heard.

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With all of these uncertainties surrounding the normal school day, Madison Scott, a clinical therapist for Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas at Robinson High School, said being there for her students has never been more crucial. 

"There are so many unknown answers, so that alone causes a lot of stress," she said. 

The empty parking lot on a Friday afternoon at Robinson High School painted a picture of these stressful times. 

Jessica Duff, PCSSD Executive Director of Communication, said it's incredibly difficult right now, but they wanted to be a united source for families. 

"We are doing everything we can to create some form of normalcy during this time, which is almost impossible considering the circumstances," she said. 

Circumstances that have left all schools in the state of Arkansas to keep their doors shut until April 17.

Scott said after hearing about the extension of school closures, they started looking at ways they could help the students.

"The school closing is definitely a shock, but it's not something our agency can't handle," she said. 

Scott said checking in on her students is a priority. 

"To validate their feelings and say, 'Yeah, it's okay to feel this way. We are just as confused too, but we are here for you,'" she said. 

Duff said having the district's counselors serve as a resource during this time is a blessing. 

"For our mental health providers to still be available to work with our students is essential, and to let these students know that there is that outlet," she said. 

From resources online to school therapists, the PCSSD staff is making sure their students know they are not alone. 

Scott said their main concern is to be there for the students.

"Being available for them in this time of crisis. It's basically a time of crisis in a lot of people's eyes," she said. 

RELATED: These kid-friendly live-streams can keep education going during coronavirus closures

Duff said all counselors at every school in the district are readily available to talk to students. If you'd like to make an appointment with your kid's counselor, you can email them directly or head to PCSSD's website

Scott said as parents you can help too, by making sure you give your kids a set schedule, take them outside during the day, and get creative!

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