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Loudoun parents to discuss assistance for children with mental health challenges

The Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents (LEAP) is meeting Nov. 8 to discuss ideas to help children who have missed school due to mental health difficulties. The end aim is to enact some of the policies pertaining to student mental health into law.

Following a September meeting focusing on student mental health, LEAP's executive committee drew up recommendations for policies the school district could put in place immediately to address the needs of students who have attempted suicide or missed school due to mental illness and treatment.

Stephanie Eskins Gleason, the president of LEAP, said although many parent groups and families have embraced Return to Learn, the ideas have not provoked the level of interest they had hoped from some school leaders.

“We believe these Return to Learn ideas are practical, common sense approaches that schools can adopt now to address the needs of students in crisis,” said Eskins Gleason.

One recommendation put forward by LEAP is that school administrators should not seek to act as psychiatrists nor psychologists; for example, if a recommendation comes from a certified doctor, it should bear more weight in determining interventions for an at-risk student than the recommendation of a guidance counselor or Pupil Services staff.

The November meeting will share the latest suicide prevention research. Materials will be available about a new teen suicide treatment study being conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Local children can apply to participate in what's being billed as the latest treatment options as part of a study that the government has fully funded.

A discussion will then take place on how LEAP can improve its Return to Learn recommendations with the aim of working with other parent groups and mental health agencies to create a resolution that can be submitted to the Virginia legislature.

Eskins Gleason said the recommendations are designed to make a difference for students battling mental illness, not only in Loudoun but throughout the commonwealth.

Interested parties are invited to attend the meeting Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. at the LCPS administration building in Ashburn.

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