In recent days in southeastern North Carolina, news outlets are reporting violence at schools. As students return to in-person learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic, they are facing new challenges. Some may need mental or behavioral health services to help cope with the challenges of the Pandemic, in addition to the struggles they face with their academic careers.
Trillium Health Resources is a local government agency that manages mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual/developmental disability services in eastern North Carolina. During a Bladen County Commissioners’ meeting, the health resource company distributed information on school and community violence for educational purposes of awareness, warning signs, and coping.
According to the Trillium literature, school shootings and acts of mass violence have led to negative attention about mental health. Trillium spreads information to help reduce the stigmas about mental health illnesses, educate anyone who interacts with children, and coordinates with providers when help is needed.
BladenOnline reached out to Bladen County Schools and asked, “Do counselors have special plans to help students who are struggling with the return to in-person learning after the troubles of last school year — emotionally, mentally, and academically? If so, what are those plans?”
Valerie Newton with Bladen County Schools replied, “Bladen County Schools adopted its SEL and School Mental Health Improvement Plan (per NC SBOE Policy SHLT-003), which requires K-12 school units to implement a school-based mental health plan that includes a mental health training program and a suicide risk referral protocol, mandatory for grades 6-12 and in K-5 it recommended for our specialized instructional support personnel (SISP). The plan will be implemented beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. This plan will include six hours of mental health training for BCS staff the first year and every year after an additional two-hour refresher training. Counselors and other support staff will be utilizing various tools and resources to respond to the social-emotional needs of students.”
Trillium’s education material explains some actions and behaviors are part of standard adolescent development. Adolescence is a time of rapid change, and it is normal to observe fluctuations in mood and personality as youth adapt to hormonal, physical, and mental maturation.
Normal Adolescent Behavior
- Brief outbursts or threats tied to a particular situation, such as a fight with a parent
- Minor rebellions and rule-breaking such as staying out later than promised
- Withdrawing from parents
- Modifying appearance or switching to new activities
- Emotional sensitivity
Some disabilities and disorders could present symptoms. These warning signs are ongoing behaviors that negatively impact school involvement, family members, and/or their peers. They should be cause for concern, and anyone who is displaying such behaviors should reach out for help.
- Threats of harming self or others through speech, written words, or online postings
- Loss of enjoyment in activities they previously enjoyed
- Isolation from all friends and family
- Confusing television or movies with reality
Family members and caregivers should be engaged in dealing with a traumatic event or the results of a behavioral health crisis. Certain coping skills may assist in the following months; impacts could be felt even years after the event.
- Keep home a safe environment
- Allow them to ask questions and answer truthfully with age-appropriate explanations, but do not force them to talk until they are ready.
- Do not deny upsetting details of the event, but also limit additional news exposure or social media
- Allow and support them to express whatever emotions they are feeling
- Understand that some children may act more immature for a period (e.g., thumbsucking)
- Take care of yourself and maintain a sense of security by keeping family routines
Funds are available for Bladen County Schools for education and resources for anyone in need of services for mental and/or behavioral health services. There is a Mobile Crisis Team available for Bladen County residents experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Monarch Mobile Crisis number is 1-866-272-7826.
Bladen County residents may also call Eastpointe 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-513-4002 for mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual/developmental disability services. Trillium Health is slated to offer Bladen County mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual/developmental disability services in October 2021. Trillium’s access to care line is 1-877-685-2415.