Chris Schulz Published

Student Mental Health Focus Of Conference This Week

A child wearing a labcoat studies a human brain with a microscope in front of a

School mental health professionals from across the state will have a chance to train in Charleston this week. 

The West Virginia Department of Education is presenting the Student Support Conference Wednesday, Nov. 29 and Thursday, Nov. 30 at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. The event will provide a forum for school counselors, school social workers and other community partners to strengthen information channels and resources within the statewide student mental health and well-being network.

Stephanie Hayes, coordinator for school counseling and student support for the West Virginia Department of Education, said professionals will have opportunities to talk about best practices and working together to meet the needs of students. 

“We’ll have breakout sessions going to cover everything from trauma to behavior interventions, mental health support, things like bullying prevention, suicide prevention, body safety education, sessions on resources that are available to support students who are homeless, or to support student mental health needs,” she said.

Hayes said student mental health issues continue to rise because of the ongoing opioid epidemic in the state and recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Being out of school, and then trying to return to school and get back to normal, we’re seeing a lot of students who are struggling with depression and anxiety, as well as some behavior issues,” she said. “We’re doing what we can to support our students.” 

According to Hayes, students’ growing needs are complicated by a shortage of mental health professionals in the state.

“I think it’s just really important to provide the professional learning opportunity for those professionals that are working to support students because when you come to a conference, and you’re able to network and learn about new resources, it provides you with new energy to go back into the school,” she said. “Sometimes those professionals are just tired, and sometimes overwhelmed with the problems that they’re seeing our students face. We really just wanted to provide this as an opportunity to provide those resources and networking and just kind of a refresher refuel for our professionals that are in the schools day in and day out.”