School counselors: Economy taking its toll on students

Years of a shaky economy are starting to take their toll on the youngest students, and that is showing up in panic attacks and uncontrollable crying at school.

Guidance counselors at local elementary and intermediate schools are starting to see more students dealing with anxiety. Traditionally, counselors most often met with students whose parents or teachers thought they had attention deficit disorder or behavior problems in class.

But now they’re seeing more students having crying spells or who are short of breath — the kinds of anxiety problems adults typically deal with, Clark-Pleasant Intermediate counselor Lisa Morris, Northwood Elementary counselor Ellen Mae Paris and Sawmill Woods counselor Melissa Morris said.

Each of the counselors can point to multiple factors behind the anxiety spikes. More students at Clark-Pleasant Intermediate are using social media, which can lead to online bullying or arguments, Morris said. And Franklin schools were put on lockdown twice this past month because of bank robberies, which scares students and makes them wonder if something harmful will happen to them, Paris said.

But the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch is growing — this past year 37 percent of Johnson County students were enrolled in the program. In 2010, 16 percent of Johnson County families with children were living below the poverty line, four times the rate from 2006. And nearly half of the county’s single mothers were living below the poverty line in 2010, up from 14 percent in 2006, according to the Indiana Business Research Center.

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