Team at W.H. Owen school meets students’ mental health needs

When the little faces pop on the screen every weekday from 11:30 to 12:30, there’s no telling what the conversation might bring.

Sometimes there might be a game of “would you rather.” Maybe someone will sing. They might hit on deeper topics like race.

Group facilitators Tanisha Dumas and Thomas Edwards let the conversation flow.

It’s the kids’ lunchtime after all.

“Sometimes it’s like, what do you want to talk about?” Dumas, Owen’s school counselor, said. “Because I don’t want it to always seem like, ‘Oh, you know, I’m still in class.’ Because it’s lunch. You know, when you’re in the cafeteria, you talk about anything.”

In a year that’s upended the lives of kids nationally, staff members in Cumberland County Schools have tried to make the abnormal a little more normal. At W.H. Owen, that normally comes in the form of Lunch Bunch, run by Dumas and W.H. Owen social worker Edwards, which is geared at giving kids the social interaction they need.

A school counselor and a social worker started a "Virtual Lunch Bunch" to be sure students' mental health needs were met when they had to take classes remotely rather than at school. [File photo]

Health care workers at Cape Fear Valley Health system have seen the impact on children. John Bigger, the system’s corporate director for behavioral health and sleep services, says they seen an increase in the number of children aged 4-17 seeking services for socialization needs.

Bigger said they range from them not being able to learn social norms the same way they could in a classroom and the ability to interact with other children.

Updated: March 22, 2021 — 11:14 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *