Christina Cody has a tireless, we-can-make-it-work attitude.
No matter the problem, she’s the kind of person who will offer up ideas one after another until she finds one that works.
Cody is a health and wellness specialist for Cherokee County Schools, a small, rural school district in the northwestern part of South Carolina. Over the past few years, she has been confronted with the growing youth mental health crisis at every turn. The reports from her colleagues filled her with worry. They would despair week after week as more students threatened to hurt themselves or others.
Some students were stabbing themselves with pencils or scissors. Others tore apart pencil sharpeners to get the blades and cut themselves. When the last school year started, there were seven mental health therapist positions to serve the district’s 8,000 students. None were filled. Without them, educators did the best they could to help in a job they weren’t trained to do.
Students’ mental health needs were increasing well before the COVID-19 pandemic began. The needs have only grown since. More than a third of high school students nationally experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, with half feeling persistently sad or hopeless, according to a Centers for Disease Control Disease Control and Prevention study. In South Carolina, children’s emergency room visits for mental health needs are up nearly a third since March 2020, state officials have said. Suicide attempts also increased, particularly among teenage girls.
“That’s just a lot of pressure,” Cody said. “You can’t lose a kid. You can’t. It’s not an option.”
South Carolina schools were some of the first in the nation to put mental health therapists in schools. More than two decades later, they’re seen as critical positions — but less than half of all schools in the state have one.https://t.co/lShv12rGaD
— The Post and Courier (@postandcourier) June 29, 2022