BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CBS 42 Living Local) – Pediatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) director, Cindy Jones, wants parents to know they are not alone if their child is experiencing more stress than usual right now.

“A lot of kids are in distress, overwhelmed, frustrated, depressed, and anxious. And so many people feel that way right now because of the pandemic. If somebody already has an underlying mental health concern, this is only going to exacerbate it even more,” Jones said.

The PIRC falls under Children’s Behavioral Health Services provided by Children’s of Alabama. The PIRC services allow adults to locate the best mental health resources for children and teens in their communities.

 “We take the legwork out of it for (parents) and allow them to contact us, tell us what’s going on, let us know what their concern is, and allow us to match them with the appropriate resource,” said Jones.

 The PIRC will match the child with a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor.

 Jones said periods of transition could be sensitive times where mental health support could be beneficial for your child. She said mental illness affects children of all ages.

Sometimes depression and anxiety can manifest in the form of anger or unexplained physical ailments. Other signs might be increased clinginess, poor sleep, poor hygiene, and loss of attention to their overall care. The time to seek help is if you notice a pattern of warning-behaviors for more than two weeks.

 “These are real signs that a child is in distress. Call the PIRC first because we can direct you to the appropriate resource. It’s better to be preventative than reactive. Don’t wait for a crisis to occur,” Jones said.

Jones suggests keeping a routine for your kids. She says structure, like they might receive in school, if very comforting and can ward off depression and anxiety. Check-in on your mental health, too! If you feel good, it can help your child feel a sense of security.

 Earlier this month, Children’s Behavioral Health opened a partial hospitalization program-an intermediate level of care. “The community has been asking for this program for a long time. It’s a step down from inpatient and a step up from outpatient,” said Jones. Anyone can call the Psychiatric Intake Response Center. The number is 205-638-7472 (PIRC). The resource is open from 8 am – 11 pm every day of the week.