LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Educators and therapists say the pandemic has created a serious mental health crisis for students.

For nine months, Dr. Veronica Brown, principal of Manchester Avenue Elementary School in South L.A., has been unable to hug her students or even see them in person.

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“I thought about the kids,” Brown told CBS Los Angeles Tuesday. “I thought about, oh my goodness, who are they gonna turn to now? Because they turn to us for everything.”

She says that over the past several months, she has seen more stress and pain in their lives.

“Sometimes, they’ll tell us that such-and-such passed away, and then there’s that moment where we say, ‘oh my goodness, let’s give him a big hug everybody,'” Brown said.

Brown has tried to implement virtual programs to help. One of those, Tiger Talk Mondays, is named after the school’s mascot.

“Our teachers are actually talking to our students, just about life, like what did they do for the weekend, do they want to share any thoughts,” Brown said.

In a recent study from the American Psychological Association, 70% of parents said family responsibilities were a significant source of stress during the pandemic, and 63% of parents said their child’s schooling was extremely stressful.

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“Mental health issues are at a crisis level, and they already were at a crisis level,” Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a Connecticut-based pediatric mental health expert told CBSLA.

Capanna-Hodge says it’s even more difficult for students now, since many had to return to virtual learning for a second time with the recent surge in cases.

“We are seeing kids that have an exacerbation of preexisting conditions like anxiety, ADHD, depression, OCD,” she said. “But we’re also seeing kids struggle with mental health for the first time in their life.”

Brown said she’ll keep smiling and encouraging her students to do the same.

“I know we’re gonna all make it through,” Brown said.

LAUSD has a hotline to provide counselors and psychologist daily for students. The number is 1-213-241-3840. Its hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.

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The California Youth Crisis Hotline, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is 1-800-843-5200.