Wake County Schools

Wake parents push for more funding, resources for students struggling with mental health

Posted November 10, 2021 5:38 p.m. EST
Updated November 10, 2021 8:55 p.m. EST

— With all students in Wake County public schools scheduled for a “mental health day” on Friday, some parents are left to wonder what other steps the system is taking to address pandemic-related anxieties.

While the Wake County Public School System is planning free virtual sessions for parents to learn how to help their children at home, one parent said more mental health resources are crucial. The sessions are a good start, but parent Linda O'Neal says they are not enough.

O'Neal said she noticed a change in her 15-year-old son when virtual learning began. Then, when her son went back to in-person learning, she knew something was wrong.

"He was literally afraid of school with all the COVID changes," she said.

O'Neal said she reached out to her son's school for help but was told there was only so much they could do.

"Some of the immediate things they were able to do was provide limited intervention time and to develop a crisis plan for our child," said O'Neal.

She added that school officials told her that her son needed help outside of school.

"Our child psychiatrist says he receives weekly reports of increased suicides," said O'Neal.

WCPSS said there are several programs for students struggling with mental health, including counseling sessions with mental health providers for students, and recently, a free self-care session for parents.

"In three days, we had 1,000 people sign up," said Marrius Pettiford, the senior director of counseling and student services for the school system.

Pettiford said school counselors can also assist families with getting outside help.

"They are able to check in with students about either academic or social issues," he added.

But, O'Neal said that she would like to see the services she had to seek privately available in schools for all students.

"We completely support the schools and their efforts and are advocating they get funded and are able to get more immediate services for everyone," she said.

WCPSS school leaders said they are working on a pilot program where a school therapist can work more closely with families as they go through the process of getting help, but program is still in its early stages.

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