Mental Health & Wellness from Our Counselors

Before we head into the summer break, we want to highlight with parents & guardians the importance of maintaining strong connections with their students in the coming months. In the structured setting of school, students find stability, growth opportunities, and a supportive community to navigate through emotions. However, during summer, feelings of sadness, confusion, or anxiety may intensify, and children might find it challenging to manage these emotions independently. By prioritizing open communication and attentiveness to their needs, parents and guardians can ensure their children feel empowered to navigate any challenges they may encounter during this time. Remember, with guidance and support, children have the resilience to overcome adversity and thrive, even in the wake of difficult circumstances such as a death in the community. We encourage everyone to embrace the summer as a time of healing and hope, knowing that together, we can provide the love and support needed for our children’s well-being.  

It’s essential to be mindful of the potential risks and vulnerabilities that may arise following a death in the community. According to the Hazelden Lifelines Postvention manual: 

Even though most youth exposed to a suicide will not become suicidal themselves, a small group of teens may be at increased suicide risk. These include students:

  • who have a history of past suicide attempts
  • who are currently in treatment for mental health concerns or drug/alcohol use
  • who have a family history of suicide
  • whose behavior is a concern to faculty, parents, or peers
  • who self-refer

Other students may also be vulnerable to complex grief reactions or be at risk of developing mental health problems in the months following the death. These include:

  • close friends, neighbors, teammates, and relatives of the deceased
  • students who spent time with the deceased immediately prior to the death
  • students with a prior history of personal losses

Below is a summary of the two parent sessions that were held last week as well as a reminder of resources that you can take advantage of this summer.  

Kate’s Club “Supporting Your Child and Yourself Through Grief” led by Lane Pease

  • One of the most important things you can do is to be there. Keep checking in but don’t press your child to talk. Listen and be accessible.  
  • Kids grieve differently than adults. They tend to grieve in smaller doses over a longer period of time. It’s not unusual for a child to have an outburst one moment, and then play and laugh the next moment.
  • Kids (and adults) don’t have to talk to feel better. Offer opportunities for expression like collages, art, journaling.  
  • Kids share side by side- while riding in the car, while doing sometime else like cooking, playing a game, going for walks  
  • At this age, peers turn to each other for support, which is normal. You can help your child remember when it is time to get help from an adult. “If you are worried about a friend, it’s not snitching to tell an adult.” Your child can offer to go to a trusted adult with their friend to get help. Your child could say “I’m worried about you.” If your child tells you something concerning, remain calm. Middle Schoolers have said they don’t want to tell a parent because they will “freak out”. You can say, “Tell me more about that…”
  • Instead of asking, “How are you doing?” try asking, “What are you feeling right now?” If you get a shrug, eye roll, or “I don’t know,” you can model by saying how you feel. “I don’t know how you are feeling, but I can imagine you might be feeling confused.”
  • Focus on the life of the person and not on the death. “Tell me more about her. What was your favorite thing about her?”

The Link “Suicide Prevention” led by Stuart Smith

Taking about suicide does not increase the risk of suicide. Ask directly about it if you are concerned. The more direct the better. You can ask, “Have you thought about hurting yourself?  What have you thought about? Do you have a plan?”

The middle school child’s brain is still developing rapidly. Middle schoolers may often look like little adults but it’s important to remember what is happening in their brains. It’s important to continue to spend time with them and stay connected to them.  

Kids are getting less sleep and instead of sleeping they are replacing sleep with screens. Some brains are more susceptible than others but increased screen time and reduced sleep is not good for anyone. Think about how we, as adults, function when we are tired and we have fully developed brains. Sleep is essential for healthy brain development and daily functioning. 

You are the best source of information for your child. You know your child the best. It’s ok to talk about suicide to younger children, in developmentally appropriate ways, if you think your child can handle that information.

Substance use and addiction is often a way someone tries to cope with and relieve pain, both physical and mental. It is often about feeling better and/or feeling nothing rather than about getting high. An addicted brain is not capable of making sound decisions.  

Additional Helpful Reads

Counseling and Crisis Resources

  • Group and Individual support at Intown Pediatrics, call to set up a free 30 min consultation with Gaia Counseling 404) 446-4726.
  • Georgia Crisis and Access Line 1-800-715-4225 *call if you need immediate assistance
  • The Link, Grief Counseling Specialists – individual and group support
  • Coffee House Counseling 
  • Tristan Ford Hutchinson – Art therapy, accepts Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, United and private pay
  • Lanta Carroll – private pay and sliding scale
  • Skidmore Counseling – (ashley@askidmorecounseling.com) or phone (404 643-3593) – private pay/sliding scale
  • Weezie Haley, Amy Robbin Counseling, 770-847-0475 private pay/sliding scale

As we navigate the summer months, let’s continue to prioritize open communication, support, and compassion for one another. Together, we can create a community where every individual feels seen, heard, and supported on their journey toward healing and resilience. We know this is a difficult time, and encourage the school family to lean on each other for support. Remember, you are not alone in this process. We are wishing you well.

Kristin Lee & Leslie Jo Tottenham

 

Kristin Lee
Middle Campus Counselor
klee@atlncs.org

 

Leslie Jo Tottenham
Elementary Campus Counselor
ltottenham@atlncs.org