New mental health services offered to 1,500 Wilmington students

Tracey Quillen Carney, Delaware's first lady, gave a speech in appreciation of Wilmington students' expanded access to mental health services. (Johnny Perez-Gonzalez/WHYY)

Tracey Quillen Carney, Delaware's first lady, gave a speech in appreciation of Wilmington students' expanded access to mental health services. (Johnny Perez-Gonzalez/WHYY)

New mental health services are now available for almost 1,500 Wilmington students.

Students will be able to take advantage of Delaware Guidance Services’ new office in Wilmington’s Community Education Building, to inspire, support, and educate them about mental health.

The building, which was once home to corporate offices for Bank of America, is now host to four schools:  Kuumba Academy Charter School, Great Oaks Charter School, High Road School of Delaware, and the University of Delaware Associate Arts Program.

DGS has been serving the community in Delaware for almost 70 years and is the state’s largest provider of outpatient mental health services for children and families. Their offices are located on the 7th floor of the CEB, in addition to locations in Newark, Dover, Lewes, and Seaford.

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“We focus on ensuring that students have everything they need all along their educational journey by providing holistic supports to support the growth and development of the students and also supporting the family,” said Linda Jennings, CEO of the Community Education Building.

While it’s important to provide students an education, Jennings says offering additional resources like student advocacy, social and emotional programming, mental and physical health services is vital, too. DGS is also working to help students with career development and crisis support.

“With the help of DGS, we are one step closer to ensuring that every child has access to quality mental health care,” Jenning said. “We are in dire need of direct mental health services for our young people, the need is great.”

One of the rooms where ‘Parent/Child Interaction Therapy’ is practiced with both parents and children. (Johnny Perez-Gonzalez/WHYY)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50% of all behavioral health problems start before the age of 14, and one in six children aged 2 to 8 have a diagnosable mental health issue. Racial discrimination was approximately seven times more common among children aged 6 to 17 who had experienced three additional adverse childhood events compared to those who had not.

Eileen Fink, Director Division of Prevention of Behavioral Health Services, said that prior to the pandemic behavioral health issues among children were already on the rise.

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“The 2019 survey of high school students in Delaware that asked about health and well-being found that 31% of our Delaware high school students in the survey reported feeling sad or hopeless two or more weeks in that primary year,” she said.

Nationally, 70% of caregivers reported the pandemic had a negative impact on the mental health of their children.

Jasmyn Allen, one of three student advocates at CEB, believes there is a need for additional mental health services. She is a recent University of Delaware graduate who spoke on how the pandemic had a significant negative impact on mental health. She said there’s a continuous pattern with students of color seeking mental health support, especially for students “whose parents may not always be able to be around for them, whether it’s just a single parent household or being just raised by their village.”

“I’ve definitely noticed that there is a need for more mental health services, especially within the schools and children with adverse childhood experiences,” said Allen.

“We all have a role to play,” said Delaware First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney. “Every interaction with a child leaves a mark. So as we celebrate the promise of initiatives like this Delaware Guidance Services Partnership, it doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook.

She expressed her excitement for this partnership as she leads the First Chance Delaware Initiative, an effort to ensure all of Delaware’s children have a chance to succeed. She talked about her own experience with unaddressed trauma that threatened to derail her life as a young person. “That was my experience,” she said. “Trauma sounds like bad news, but how much more we know than we used to is such good news.”

Carney joined her husband Gov. John Carney in 2018 as he signed an executive order officially making Delaware a “trauma-informed” state. The order calls for all state agencies to develop strategic plans to prepare their staff to engage clients in a way that takes into consideration traumas they may have faced in life.

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