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Mental Health Matters: Teenagers persevere in the pandemic

By Akilah Frye

Intern

The pandemic has taken a toll on the worldwide economy and health, but one thing that has gone mostly overlooked is how it has affected mental health — especially that of teenagers.

Once things began shutting down in March of 2020, many families were stuck at home. Schools began shutting down, and those that could work from home chose to. School gives young people the opportunity to get out of the house and interact with others. Another connection a student has with school is the counseling there to support them in any way possible. Now imagine how a child’s mental state can transform with no daily interaction and no safe space.

Lynn Briggs, director of community and media relations for Isle of Wight County Schools, provided some insight into the counseling offices in Isle of Wight schools and how they work to help students.

“An important part of mental health support is prevention, and mental health is linked to overall well-being,” Briggs said. “Efforts or initiatives which promote positive routines, relationships, and equity also support general well-being and mental health.”

The counseling community at school plays a huge role in the student’s well-being. This is because they try their best to create a relationship with the student and their parents.

“Students and parents are encouraged to reach out to a school counselor if they have concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other issues that may be impacting their social and emotional health. Counselors can conduct in-person meetings or virtual meetings through Zoom,” said Briggs.

School counselors ensure that the students are supported within the school and provide as much guidance as they can when the mental health needs of a student are outside of the scope of what is supported through the school. When there is a concern about suicidal ideation, schools and their counselors assess the potential risks and make recommendations if medical assessment/care may be needed. This is why it is so important that the community surrounding the student let the administration know of any concerns they may have regarding one’s mental health.

Smithfield and Windsor high schools also have outside resources that they share with students and their families. These resources include Hotlines like the National Suicide Hotline, local Counseling Practices like the Genesis Counseling Center, homeless shelters like the Isle of Wight Mission of Hope, and food pantries like the Salvation Army. There are many other resources provided by the school counselors in Isle of Wight County such as medical and dental resources and substance abuse.