Parents in Loudoun County concerned about their kids’ mental health have a new place to turn for help. ParentGuidance.org is partnering with Loudoun County Public Schools to provide a range of mental health resources and counseling, all free of charge.
“There is a gap in the education provided to parents” about children’s mental health, said Jennifer Evans, the director of mental health services for the Loudoun County Public Schools. Parent Guidance was developed to help close that gap, providing parents with the resources to have conversations about mental health “even before something gets to a serious level,” she says.
The program gives members of the LCPS community access to mental health coaches available by phone and text and online on-demand lessons from licensed therapists. Starting next school year, live, interactive family sessions will also be available.
‘There’s a Lot of People’
The program had a soft launch January 18 and went fully live January 31. As of last week, there were 124 total engagements, 50 coaching logins and 54 clicks on webinars and articles. “It just tells you there’s a lot of people trying to navigate challenges in mental health,” Evans says.
Parents first learned about the program at LCPS’s sixth mental health and wellness conference, which brought about 550 parents, 90 vendors, and 45 presenters to Riverside High School. “It speaks volumes to have that many people come out on a Saturday morning,” Evans says. “It’s become a valuable event over the years.”
Even before the pandemic, there was an increase in the number of people looking for help with mental health needs, Evans says. On top of that, she says, “we all went through trauma” during the pandemic.
Students went basically two years without any in-person learning, and “kids are getting younger” in terms of looking for mental health: Issues around anxiety and depression, as well as the substance experimentation that such conditions can lead to, that used to start at the high school level are starting to crop up in middle school students, Evans says.
She hopes that the programs will lead to a broadening of the definition of mental health that doesn’t just focus on mental illness, and that parents won’t feel any problems with acknowledging that they don’t have all the answers. As a mental health professional with three children, Evans says, “There are things even I don’t know.”
All the Parent Guidance resources are available in English and Spanish, and translators can be engaged for other languages. The link to Parent Guidance can be found on the Loudoun County Public Schools website, as well as on each school’s mental health resources page.
Parent Guidance, a program of the nonprofit Cook Center for Human Connections, is contracted with LCPS for 18 months, with a plan to continue it if it’s well-received, “as it seems it is,” Evans says.
Feature image, stock.adobe.com
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