Education night on student mental health in Peru provides parents with resources

Presentation on mental health services and social support expected to help struggling children and teens

A parent/caregiver education night provided mental health resources and information to families on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Parkside School in Peru.

The event included a presentation on mental health issues school-aged children experience and ways for parents to help their children through mental health struggles. Various organizations were set up at tables handing out information flyers, brochures and talking directly with families.

Future events are planned across La Salle County schools to bring awareness to these resources.

The event was hosted by the Regional Office of Education for La Salle, Marshall and Putnam counties (ROE 35) and is funded through a Community Partnership Grant from the state of Illinois.

“Mental health is on the rise even at younger ages,” said Ginna Campbell, ROE 35 grant student services and community partnership coordinator. “The Community Partnership Grant is focused on mental well-being, and since we live in a more rural area, this is a way for resources to come to the community.”

Campbell said she wants parents to know their child’s school is often the best resource in providing mental health help.

Parkside School Social Worker Julie Miller works with students daily who suffer from anxiety and skip school to cope. Miller said if skipping school becomes a habit, it will become a coping mechanism.

“I see a lot of anxiety right now, and I get calls from parents saying they can’t get their kids out of bed,” Miller said, emphasizing how important it is to just get them through the school doors. “It’s not to punish them, it’s to show your child they can work through difficult things. We are teaching kids how to manage that anxiety.”

The presentation was given by ROE 35 representative Allison Warren. Warren provided tips for parents to help kids manage their mental health struggles and learn to identify warning signs of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Warning signs include: excessive worry or fear, confusion, sudden mood changes, intense anger, drastic sleeping changes, low energy, eating changes, suicidal thoughts, increase in phone or video game use, intense fear of weight gain or obsession with appearance, disinterest in normal enjoyed activities, physical ailments without cause, isolation and abuse of substances.

The presentation also provided ways parents can help support their children through mental health struggles. Showing empathy and having open conversations about emotions is key. Modeling healthy coping skills, showing children how to problem solve, establishing routines, spending quality time together and limiting screen time and social media use can also help.

If a child is suffering from more than normal daily stressors, contact a school counselor or teacher. They may be able to help or have recommendations for outside resources.

Other organizations besides ROE 35 in attendance include North Central Behavioral Health, Illinois Valley Youth Service Bureau, Safe Journeys, Illinois Valley Center for Independent Living, Peru Public Library, Peru Elementary Social Services, Life Balance Counseling, U of I Extension Office and Arukah Institute of Healing.

Tuesday’s event was the first parent education night, and ROE 35 representatives said more events will be hosted at different schools in the coming months.

Additional parents education events will be held at Lincoln Elementary in La Salle on Oct. 13, Mendota High School on Oct. 25 and Wallace Elementary on Dec. 6. Times are not yet determined. If interested in attending a future event, watch for announcements from the schools for more information.