How parents can prepare children for a drastically new school year

In this two-part Q&A with Steve Spriester, Dr. Roybal answers questions about how kids’ at the start of the school year may signal distress and how parents can help them feel better. Additionally, she provides advice about when parents might want to seek professional help for their child.

To help ease children’s anxiety, parents can discuss safety precautions such as wearing masks, keeping physically distant (6 ft) from others, and washing hands regularly. Steve’s take-home message after talking with Dr. Roybal – parents should model the behavior that they want their kids to take with them.

Checking in on kids’ mental health amid closures

With schools closed and children not seeing their friends in person, it could surface new emotions and issues. How can you help them?
By Erica Zucco

SAN ANTONIO — Like adults, many children are currently coping with the new reality formed by closures meant to prevent the spread of coronavirus — but in most cases, UT Health San Antonio psychiatrist Dr. Donna Roybal says it will manifest differently than it would in adults.

“It’s a very different experience for them than when adults do Zoom, and happy hours online, use verbal communication,” Dr. Roybal said. “For kids it’s still very important to have that physical interaction, that ability to just spontaneously do something, because they need something physically different in their play than we do.”

For children already receiving mental health support, it’s important to monitor them during this time. For all kids, it’s essential to check in and understand they may be feeling differently, and to make sure they know you are a safe resource for them to talk to.

“Let them know, first and foremost- that this is not permanent,” Dr. Roybal said. “That while, in their world, it feels like it is, in their shortened lifespan- compare it to things that have been shortened for them. Let them know- your birthday comes every year and you think it will be a long time but sure enough, it comes.”

It’s not just children facing uncertain times- and it’s crucial to check in on your own mental health as well.

“I think the hard thing for them is unpredictability- which is hard for everyone- so to manage your own sense of unpredictability and anxiety, will be helpful for them,” Dr. Roybal said.

For teenagers, Dr. Roybal encourages parents to let them sleep in a little longer than normal, though not all day.

“Let them sleep in a little bit- let them grow- you’ll probably find a growth spurt during this period, which would not be surprising, because they’re sleeping a lot.”

She says it’s also good to find a healthy balance of routine and spontaneity. Know that it is also normal for them to “act out” differently during these times.

“They don’t really tend to show their anxiety or stress the way adults do all the time- they won’t come up and say hey, I’m stressed out, usually,” Dr. Roybal said. “It’ll come out as irritability. They’re just gonna come up and be cranky and you may not know why. It might be friend drama, this whole new virtual world, with video games, there’s drama there, it could be social influences- and then just boredom.”


Dr. Donna Roybal will be guest appearing on the Source on TPR to address the effects of quarantined e-learning on children’s mental health and how teachers and parents can keep children on track.

Show will be on 12:06pm, Tuesday, 3/23/2020.

Do you have a question for the radio show?

• Tweet questions to: @tprsource

• E-mail comments to:

• You can call in to 833-TPR-TALK.

• Other options include leaving a voicemail ahead of the show (210-615-8982), emailing or commenting via social media.





CAARE-BD in the Community

High schoolers learn about mental health and mental illness



CAARE-BD was invited to a local charter high school to talk about anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. Dr. Blake Novy, our postdoctoral researcher, and Rose Marie Larios, our research assistant, answered students’ questions and educated them on coping mechanisms for test anxiety. Additionally, we discussed the differences between mental health and mental illness. What is worry and sadness, and when do we need to speak to a medical professional or licensed therapist about our worries and sadness? What are the behaviors and attitudes that may be warning signs of suicide?. Lastly, we provided students with resources to help manage their feelings and give them an outlet to talk, such as websites, social media sites, and apps.


Contact us if you would like us to talk at your school!

make a gift / donation

Our research seeks to find treatments and interventions for children and adolescents with and at-risk for bipolar disorder. 100% of our work is funded by grants and donations from people like you who care about improving the lives of children who suffer from this illness.

If you’d like to make a donation, please click on the “Donate Now” button below.

clinical services


We provide world class treatment for children, adolescents, and their families affected by bipolar disorder. This includes kids already diagnosed with the disorder or kids who may be at risk and have a family history of bipolar disorder. As an academic research institution, we are on the cutting edge of research, treatments, and interventions for children and adolescents with this illness.


Not sure if your child’s mood swings are normal pre-teen or teen behavior? Dr. Roybal’s expertise is in diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder. She can also help you assess the risk your child has in developing mood symptoms such as depression or mania if you have a family history of bipolar disorder.


Do you live far from San Antonio or do you already have a psychiatrist? We are happy to work with your current provider in assisting with diagnostic clarification and treatment recommendations.


Please call 210-450-8362 if you are interested in a clinical evaluation.

current research

For healthy children and adolescents:

Do you have a child with no psychiatric diagnosis and neither do you?

We are looking for healthy families in which the parents and child have not received psychiatric diagnoses. If you qualify, you and your family will be paid for participating in evaluations and MRI. Children who participate will receive pictures of their brain and a certificate of successful completion in research at UT Health San Antonio.

This study is closed and no longer recruiting children and adolescents.

For children and adolescents at-risk for bipolar disorder:

Do you have mood swings? Have you been diagnosed with bipolar disorder? Do you have a family member who has bipolar disorder? Do you have a child who has anxiety or worries too much?

We are seeking to understand the development of bipolar disorder from an early age. Participants will be asked to answer some questionnaires and undergo a brain scan (MRI). There is no radiation involved with the brain scan and results will be used to create treatments for children and adolescents at-risk for developing bipolar disorder.

Even if you do not know if you or your child’s other biological parent has bipolar disorder, but your child has anxiety or worries, we can evaluate you for bipolar disorder. You do not need to already have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder to be in the study.

This study is currently closed and no longer recruiting children and adolescents.

We are currently running the following studies:

For children already diagnosed with bipolar disorder or who experience mood swings and bipolar disorder is suspected:

Do you have a child who has bipolar disorder – or maybe you aren’t sure and your child has mood swings?

If you have a child that experiences mood swings or has already been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that child has a sibling, they may qualify for this study. In collaboration with the Texas Biomedical Institute, we are looking at whether stem cells can be used to generate neural tissue from which we can examine various genetic components and their relationship with neurocognitive tests and brain structure. Participants will be required to undergo a blood draw (small tube, numbing cream provided) and a brain scan (MRI).

This study is actively recruiting children and adolescents 8-17 years old.

For more information or to sign up, please call 210-450-8362 or click here.


publications head

The Research Program serves to study the cause, presentation, and treatment of pediatric Bipolar Disorder (BD). Our central mission is to understand which children are at risk for developing BD so that we can intervene to prevent the disorder. In order to do this, we are conducting studies designed to discover brain and gene abnormalities that are unique to early-onset BD.