May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

Mary Rumore
Staff Writer

May serves as Mental Health Awareness Month, and West Point offers several resources for citizens to take care of their mental health.
Community Counseling Services county administrator Stephanie Taylor said CCS was trying to remove the stigma of mental health.
“You see stuff about people suffering from mental health issues on TV and movies, and they always try to sensationalize it,” Taylor said. “We all have mental health, and that’s why we have to move toward being proactive and taking care of our mental health.”
Taylor said CCS offers counseling services to Choctaw, Clay, Noxubee, Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Webster and Winston Counties, and their emergency hotline can be reached 24/7 at 888-943-3022.
Taylor said one example of how CCS serves West Point was the grief counseling they offered to the family, friends and classmates of West Point High School student Jashun Johnson after he was killed in a car wreck on April 24.
“That is one example of a time when people were going about their daily life and never walked through our doors before, but in that moment they needed us,” Taylor said.
She said another example was the counseling CCS provided to the friends, family and classmates of the middle school girl from Starkville who recently committed suicide as a result of bullying.
“It’s not always the extreme of what you see on movies and tv,” Taylor said. “We have to get people away from that. There’s no shame if you are depressed, or if you go through a divorce or have a loved one pass away and just need some help and need someone to talk to.”
Taylor said the System of Care program was another service offered by CCS that provided 12 through 21 year olds with counseling and emotional support.
She said the goal of System of Care was to serve 200 kids by September, and as of last week they were only 10 kids short from that goal.
“We want to give them the help they need to be the best person they can be so they can be productive in our community,” Taylor said.
CCS Board Member Kay Simmons said budget cuts to the Department of Mental Health will not affect CCS.
“Budget cuts concern the Department of Mental Health, which we are not actually a part of,” Simmons said. “We do not receive any funding through the DMH except for occasional grants. We have a lot of creative people who come up the funding for our programs. When you hear about budget cuts for mental health, do not be alarmed, it will not affect the seven counties we serve.”
Along with CCS, Oak Hill Academy and West Point Consolidated School District also provide counseling services to their students.
Oak Hill Academy counselor Francis Dawkins said she can speak with students one on one if someone was having issues, or she sometimes refers them to an outside source if needed.
“A lot of times, I can speak with a student a few times a week for a few weeks if they need help or someone to talk to,” Dawkins said. “Sometimes its just small problems I can help with. If it is something more serious, I can refer them to another outside resource.”
Dawkins said she also uses small groups to work with students.
“I sometimes split the boys and girls into small groups to discuss different topics such as bullying or anything else that has been brought to my attention,” Dawkins said. “Usually just discussing and bringing things to the students’ attention helps. Parents also keep in contact, which helps a lot too.”
West Point Consolidated School District Superintendent Burnell McDonald said all the schools in the district have counselors, and the district was partnered with CCS.
“All our schools have counselors,” McDonald said. “We do a lot of work with Community Counseling Services too. I can’t say enough good things about CCS and the help they have given our schools in various situations.”
For more information about Community Counseling Services, call 662-524-4347. A national emergency suicide hotline can also be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.