WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Beaufort County is one of six counties in North Carolina that has funding from a program called Project AWARE.
Through this program, school officials have extra mental health professionals on campus as well as other resources to help make it a top priority.
“Mental health affects us all,” said Brent Rivenbark, a school counselor at Chocowinity Middle School. “It’s real whether we want to pretend it’s real or not. I know there’s a taboo around it, but our kids are dealing with it every day.”
That’s why Beaufort County is equipping its schools with extra resources.
“We have a core curriculum that is taught with our counselors,” said Ashley Padgett, the director of Project AWARE of Beaufort County. “We also have a really great relationship with a mental health collaborative in Beaufort County.”
School counselors are also working every day with students.
“We do one-on-one check-ins with students, staff and families, making sure they have resources that they need,” said Rivenbark.
Each school in the county has a counselor as well as teachers who are trained.
“Kids come to our counselors or their teachers or maybe their peers and let them know, ‘Hey, this is going on, I feel sad or anxious,'” said Padgett. “The counselors, social workers and all those people are so well trained, They know if this is something we can take care in-house, should we talk to parents or what kind of tools do we have.”
Counselors in Beaufort County said they see this work making a difference.
“If they know they can trust you and they have that rapport with you,” said Keyoshia Liverman, a counselor at Northeast Elementary School. “Even if it’s something they can’t tell their family, they’re gonna come tell you because they trust you.”
School leaders are hoping these skills now will lead to healthier students and communities.
“If you’re starting to feel anxious, if we can give you those skills at the lower level, that may prevent some other things going deeper into anxiety or depression,” Padgett said. “We’re working on life skills so that kids can carry them on from school to summer to real life.”