Horry County Schools develops plans to tackle student mental health

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – As students in Horry County prepare for the upcoming school year, the district is also working on ways to address student mental health.

Director of Counseling Services for Horry County Schools, Tonya Pickett, said the main goal is to keep students happy, healthy and learning. She said that as they became adults, she wanted them to know it was okay to ask for help.

“Knowing that student and knowing what their baseline is and paying attention to the changes…is really, really important,” Pickett said.

The first day of school is always a mix of emotions. A new class, new teachers and, for some, a whole new environment. All this while living in the age of COVID-19.

That’s why proper care and support is crucial for mental health, something the district said it was prepared with.

“We want to make sure that we start at a very young age by getting them to understand the importance of asking for help when they need it and being okay with asking for that help,” Pickett said.

She said the district still keeps schools properly staffed with school counselors. At the secondary level, there are about 60. About 55 are endowed at the intermediate level and about 45 at the elementary level.

Pickett said a counselor’s relationship with their students is important in addressing any mental health issues.

“There is no one size fits all, and so it is very important for us to have relationships with our families, with our students, with their parents, so that we can assess their individual needs and make suggestions on what that might help their specific situations,” she says.

The district is also prepared with other resources inside and outside the classroom. In addition to counselors, it has a clinical program housed in schools called Rehabilitative Behavioral Health Services. This provides more intensive services to those in need.

The district has also invested in an outdoor program called Care Solace.

“Whether they’re looking for telehealth services, because transportation is an issue, whether there’s insurance or payment issues, so whatever the circumstances, if we can’t provide those services, then our students and our families can have access to coordinated care,” Pickett said.

But the efforts do not stop there. Pickett said the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline will be printed on all middle school and high school student ID cards.

“What we try to do is keep our students happy, keep them healthy, and keep them learning,” she said. “And as they reach adulthood, we want them to know it’s okay to ask for help.”

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