Schools start mental health discussion

Published 10:18 pm Friday, February 16, 2018

Suffolk Public Schools will be opening up discussion about mental health and how to recognize warning signs with parents by holding presentations for the community.

“We have been talking about this since the fall in terms of a broader initiative for teen mental wellness,” said school division spokeswoman Cheri Hinshelwood. “There has been a lot in the news that indicates teens are under an enormous amount of stress and feel anxiety and depression. It’s something that needs to be addressed.”

Mental health is already part of the 10th-grade curriculum with Suffolk Public Schools, and the schools plan on supplementing the curriculum. Sophomores will view “More than Sad: Teen Depression” during their health classes, and the videos will be followed by having discussions with counselors and a trained mental health professional.

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Parents and members of the community will have three opportunities to preview the material before it hits classrooms. This gives those dealing with teens the tools to see the warning signs and how to help.

The content of the presentation is sensitive, and it is highly recommended that parents and community members leave their children at home.

Teachers and other school staff are currently being trained with the adult version of the materials.

“All of our high school teachers, staff and coaches are being trained in the adult version of this, and we are laying the foundation in the schools,” Hinshelwood said. “What we are doing is establishing a safety team so that teens have a receptive adult to go to and ask for help.”

The videos are roughly 20 minutes in length, and there will be discussion after the presentations. Most of the discussion will be facilitated by the presenter, but those attending are free to ask questions as well.

Three presentations are available for parents to attend. The first presentation will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at King’s Fork High School. Two more will follow in March — 6:30 p.m. March 1 at Nansemond River High School and 6:30 p.m. March 14 at Lakeland High School.

“This is a good time for these discussions to be undertaken,” Hinshelwood said. “Suffolk Public Schools and other public schools are uniquely poised to begin these discussions. It’s our intent to help build a stronger safety net to help our students succeed in school and in life. We want to build well-rounded students.”