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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- From depression to the stress of NTI, and the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns have piled up for parents and students over the last year.

It's the first week of in-person school for middle and high schoolers in Jefferson County Public Schools, and Jaden Evans, an Iroquois High School sophomore and basketball player, said he felt stressed with all that time at home.

"Getting all the work done was hard to manage," he said. "In-person learning is way better for me anyway than NTI."

Counselor Nicole Fields said she and other counselors had to find new ways to reach out to students during the pandemic when in-person sessions weren't allowed and some students didn't have the technology for virtual sessions.

"Mental health is very serious, because we had kids go through depression," she said. "Even adults, it was hard on us being isolated in the home." 

For the 2019-20 school year, which was a mix of in-person then went to online, students used more than 153,000 counseling hours. This school year which was all online until recently, students used more than 169,000 hours.

JCPS said the hours for direct services include individual counseling, small group counseling, whole class counseling instruction, collaboration on specific support services, college and career counseling, crisis support, family/student assistance, school wide campaigns (i.e. bullying prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, suicide prevention, kindness week, etc.) and transitional support.

The pandemic also created new stresses over some students becoming caretakers and concerns about protests.

"We had Breonna Taylor, and our students were out at the protest," Fields said. "When you have all of this happening, your anxiety level is up."

Evans said he's glad that he's back to school with his friends, but the halls here remain quiet because of the hybrid schedule and other students remaining in virtual school. He said he's thankful for the staff at Iroquois.

"My counselor, she was really a great support system for me, especially going through NTI, checking up on me, sending me text messages," he said.

"What I have told the students, if you do feel anxiety, just reach out," Fields added. "Just call and say 'Hey I feel some kind of way.' That's the most generic thing you can say without actually putting a label on something."

She said she's meeting students where they are, where they feel comfortable, whether it's online or even in a grocery store parking lot. She's there to help.

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