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'It's one of our top priorities' | Rock Hill School District placing greater emphasis mental health among students, staff

“We’re finding that every child is exhibiting some kind of trauma," the district's Director of Mental Health said.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Thirty-eight days into the school year, the Rock Hill School District says it has conducted 60 suicide assessments in students who indicated they could hurt themselves.

"That is quite a bit," said Dr. Nancy Turner, Rock Hill School District's Director of Mental Health, who says it's an increase from prior years. "The majority of them have been in elementary and middle [schools]."

At Monday night's Rock Hill School Board meeting, Turner said the district's staff and students are in "COVID emergency mode."

"We’re finding that every child is exhibiting some kind of trauma," Turner said. "Every child is having difficulty. Staff as well.” 

If you or a loved one are facing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, there is help readily available. You can call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or chat with them online. There are also resources in North Carolina available here and in South Carolina available here.

Turner's position as Director of Mental Health is new this year.  It's one of several changes Rock Hill Schools is making to address mental health in classrooms. 

Soon, every student in the district will take a short assessment called BIMAS (Behavior Intervention Monitoring Assessment Screener), which screens for anxiety, stress and other behaviors. 

RELATED: You are not alone | Mental health resources

The school district will also offer a mindfulness app called Bounce Back for free, and it has already introduced an interactive robot named Abii, which helps identify performance, attention and stress levels.

"The kids love it," Turner said. "And they’re learning about themselves and reacting to the robot."

In July, the Rock Hill School District introduced a mental health hotline at 803-324-7464. The district also created an email at MentalHealth@rhmail.org

The district also has its own Parent Academy, a virtual class with mental health topics presented by experts. It airs on the Rock Hill School District's Facebook page and YouTube page.  

Turner says it's all part of a commitment to help students and staff.

"It's one of our top priorities," Turner said.

Contact Indira Eskieva at ieskieva@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

RELATED: 'Kids are not as able to adapt to precautions as adults are' | SC ranks second with the most COVID-19 cases among children in new report

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