Lumberton school emphasizes preventative mental health

LUMBERTON, NC – Dominique Brooks has worked as a mental health counselor at Tanglewood Elementary School for the past eight years. It’s a job that she says has become increasingly difficult.

What do you want to know

  • School districts, cities and state leaders grapple with how to prevent school shootings
  • According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, there were 431 reports of “planned school attacks” from August 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022
  • Although summer vacation is right around the corner, conversations about mental health and school safety are far from over
  • School leaders say warning signs of someone capable of violence can start young

“Between hurricanes, pandemics, being away from friends, this normal routine they’re used to, [the Ulvade school shooting] was just one more thing to move the boat a bit,” Brooks said.

Brooks leaves his office door open at lunch and meets with students throughout the day. She says sometimes it can be difficult for children to put their feelings into words.

“They can say I feel like that and I’ll say, ‘OK, that’s mad, did your eyebrows feel really tight? Did your hands clench? Was your heart beating fast?’ Remind them that there are physical symptoms when you feel a certain way,” she said.

Brook believes in a preventative approach to mental health to ensure children know how to deal with conflict and trauma in healthy ways.

It’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to be upset, but what do we do with those feelings? We don’t just push them down. What’s the best way to deal with them?” Brooks said.

Robeson County school officials say the hope is that children can develop or strengthen their resilience to whatever life throws at them. And if a child shows warning signs of something much worse, the adults in their world can identify them and provide them with the resources they need.

Brooks understands the important role she plays.

“I can be a partner that helps them, helps their parents, helps the teachers, to make sure there’s positivity, there’s encouragement, there’s skills we can practice and learn to make tomorrow a better future,” she said.

As we head into summer vacation, Brooks says parents should watch for warning signs in their children that signal the need for mental health services.

These signs include dramatic changes in their mood or behavior, such as a decline in school performance, changes in or lack of interests, and feelings of stress or loneliness.

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