Partners In Learning recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month

Published 12:02 am Thursday, May 18, 2023

SALISBURY — Partners In Learning began providing mental health services in 2022. 

“Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning,” Partners In Learning Executive Director Norma Honeycutt said.  

Partners In Learning’s on-site mental health counselor, Elizabeth Webb, is available to provide services in-person or virtually.

“Having a voice and a comfortable place to share your thoughts and feelings is the ultimate goal as counselors for providing mental health services,” Webb said. “My goal at Partners In Learning is to provide empowerment and a safe place for clients. Finding your right fit is important to providing mental health services.” 

Psychotherapy involves communication between patients and therapists intended to help individuals find relief from emotional distress, seek solutions to problems, and modify ways of thinking and acting that may prevent them from productivity. Partners In Learning staff take a client-centered approach and a person-first approach and strive to do what is best for the individual and find the best fit for them. They also take an integrated-therapy approach, which uses a mix of different therapies to find what works best for each person. 

In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, Partners In Learning shares some astonishing facts about mental health and supports those in need. 

“Partners In Learning’s focus is supporting children and families and helping to break the stigma that often comes with mental health,” said Amy Vestal, the Partners In Learning development director. “At some point in our lives, we all have been affected by mental health, either personally or through a loved one. According to the CDC, one in five adults live with a mental illness, and one in five children aged 13-18 have a serious mental illness. We want people to know they are not alone and getting support doesn’t mean they are weak. You can’t use willpower alone to power through mental illness. Therapy and medication are critical in effectively managing mental health. Mental health can be caused by various factors, including trauma, genetics, brain injuries and chemical imbalances.

“We will soon be accepting insurance for mental health counseling, but until then, we are providing a reduced rate for private pay clients. Through collaboration and a grant from Novant Health, we can expand our support services and provide financial assistance for families who cannot afford the cost of mental health counseling.” In addition, the CDC reports that emergency visits have drastically increased for children ages 5 to 11 over the last few years. Unfortunately, emergency rooms cannot support children with mental health needs. “If outpatient services were more readily available to families, it would mitigate the rate of children admitted to the hospital for mental health care.” 

Cassie Karriker, clinical director for Partners In Learning, elaborated on that urgent need.

“Most places that you call for mental health services will have a waitlist for people over the age of five years old, and if you need play therapy for a child between the ages of three to five, it is nearly impossible to find a place that does not have a six-12 month waitlist,” Karriker said. “So as we are growing, we would like to alleviate some of that stress for families and be able to provide another avenue for families for mental health services not only for themselves but for their children.” 

A mom whose child has been fortunate enough to receive play therapy recalls her experience. 

“I am so thankful I can access the play therapy at Partners in Learning,” she said. “My child struggled to regulate his emotions and was much calmer once Elizabeth started seeing him at school. He could tell me what he needed instead of getting upset, and at times he even reminded me that I should take a deep breath and calm my body. It is also so beneficial that I do not have to take him anywhere, they receive this service at school.” 

Karriker added, “It is also our vision to bring on board a substance abuse counselor so that we can also provide that service to the many families that we are serving that are trying desperately to get their children back and are completing parenting classes with us. Wouldn’t it be great if they could get their parenting classes and substance abuse counseling and access a place that can provide additional mental health services for their children in one convenient location, ensuring a totality of care?”

Partners In Learning works with childcare centers and schools around Rowan County to help train teachers on trauma responses and to assist families in getting the supportive services they need. Karriker works collaboratively with multiple agencies in Rowan and surrounding counties to build a support network for children and families. 

“We serve 16 counties through our early intervention and family support program,” Karriker said. “We must be connected to the resources in each county for those children and families. We can provide virtually many of our clinical programs, such as support groups, mental health counseling, and even parent and professional training.” 

A mother of an eight-year-old daughter with ADHD and dyslexia indicated that support from Partners In Learning had changed her daughter’s life. 

“When my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, I knew that I needed to get her support for the roller coaster of emotions, challenges and self-perception she would face,” said Lauren, the mother. “These diagnoses can greatly impact self-esteem as she progresses through school. Knowing that Partners In Learning specializes in children, I thought that would be the perfect place for her to receive preventive therapy to provide her with the tools she needed to navigate her journey with ADHD and dyslexia.”

ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children, with approximately six million being diagnosed between the ages of three and 17. 

Partners In Learning provides individual and group therapy and a unique social-emotional class for their school-agers to help them navigate pre-teen challenges. 

“We know that children often don’t share everything happening at school or with their friends with their parents. So we provide a safe and fun environment for them to ‘spill the tea,'” Webb said.

Each week Webb meets with the summer campers to discuss social situations and how to handle those problematic social dilemmas. She focuses on building a solid sense of self, recognizing social dangers, especially on social media, and how to combat bullying. 

“Mental Health Awareness Month is a great opportunity for us to educate people on how mental illness affects adults and children,” Honeycutt said. “The effects can be devastating and lifelong. However, there is hope.”

Children with mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan. 

“With proper diagnosis, treatment and resources, they can live happy, healthy, productive lives,” Honeycutt said. “Without treatment, the consequences of mental illness for the child, family and society are staggering. Untreated mental health conditions can result in unnecessary disability and many other issues. The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than $100 billion annually in the United States. 

“Partners In Learning addresses mental illness through early identification, assessment, intervention, services and advocacy. Every individual is unique and mental illness adds challenges for many. However, it can also become a superpower given the right resources.” 

If you or a loved one need support, call or text the emergency hotline at 988 or head to your local emergency room.