LYNCHBURG, Va. – Following the recent, deadly shootings near Virginia Tech’s campus and at Bridgewater College, school leaders at those institutions are offering counseling services to those who may need it.
But whether it’s a traumatic event, such as those shootings, or dealing with anxiety while studying for a test, mental health professionals say more students are needing help.
“More and more children are struggling with anxiety and depression and trauma, and they are expressing that both behaviorally and emotionally in school,” said Lesli Sedwick, director of school-based services for Horizon Behavioral Health.
Sedwick oversees the therapists and case managers providing services in schools throughout Central Virginia.
Feb. 7-11 marks National Mental Health Professionals and School Counselors Week.
Sedwick says it’s important to help students navigate their emotions through one-on-one sessions.
“Provide [students] a safe environment to be able to express their feelings and not bottle them up, so that they become even bigger issues later,” said Sedwick.
Horizon has 17 staff members working with 22 schools throughout Lynchburg and its surrounding counties, helping students ages four to 18.
Rene James is the counseling director at Linkhorne Middle School in Lynchburg. She says in her 12 years as a counselor, she’s seeing more emphasis on mental health.
“School counselors didn’t use to focus so much on that, and now the school counseling programs do incorporate a lot of that mental health piece,” said James.
School counselors work to identify those students in need of clinical help.
With parental approval, the counselors work with Horizon to get students clinical support, which we’re told is reducing the need for some crisis services.
“Collaboration is really, really key; and I think continuing to build relationships with people that work in all aspects of mental health and academics is vital,” said James.