TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The pandemic shed new light on the mental health crisis many young children are facing, and with school back in session, local parents said there is an increase in bullying and mental health challenges among students. Parents from around the Capital Region formed a support group, and local event, meant to discuss their children’s experience with bullying and to let those students know they are not alone.

“We decided to start this group to reach out to other children, other parents,” Taunya Landringan, founder of the online community “Parents Against Bullying”, said. If they don’t feel comfortable going to counselors or talking to the schools, we opened it up for them to come to us.” A 2019 study from the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System shows that 19.5 percent of students in grades 9-12 report being bullied on school property over the course of one year.

As schools faced challenges with remote learning and navigating “the new normal,” there are concerns that bullying prevention went to the wayside and increased time online over the last two years has only hurt those prevention efforts. “Not to say that they didn’t care about it, it’s just the fact that other things took place and came in so they kind of pushed it back,” Sheekesha McLaurin-Taylor, event organizer, said.

According to Stopbullying.gov, the most common spaces for bullying include social media websites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. Other parents at the event said finding a community of support changed everything for their families. “Now you’ve got these people standing behind you and it’s a wonderful feeling,” Jamie Cook, Parent, said.

Now, they hope others take away the same message. “If I could help just one family or one person out of all of this and let it be heard and known, that is why I decided to do this and open up my space to them,” Ashley Sanders, organizer, said.