A mother and daughter are lying on the floor, smiling and drawing together. The mother is wearing a striped shirt, while the daughter is in a white top. Both have curly hair and appear happy and engaged in their activity. In the bottom right corner, there is a logo that reads "Parent Guidance.org Mental Health Resources." The background features a softly patterned wall.

Charleston, W.Va. – As part of National Mental Health Awareness Month, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is pleased to announce a new resource available to families, educators, caregivers and others to support student mental health. ParentGuidance.org, a 24/7 online platform, assists those who care for children to address and elevate mental health wellness and self-care. These tools are designed to enhance the human connections vital for school communities to thrive.

Throughout the United States, ParentGuidance.org works with schools and their communities to empower families to support the mental health needs of children. In West Virginia, there is now free access to an array of tools including:

  • Regular one-on-one parent coaching with cognitive behavioral health coaches
  • On-demand parenting sessions taught by licensed therapists
  • “Ask a Therapist,” a frequently updated question-and-answer forum

These resources are made possible through a three-year contract the WVDE has entered with the national nonprofit The Cook Center for Human Connection to make ParentGuidance.org immediately available for West Virginia families. Across the country, 361 districts and 6,308 schools are using the organization’s model offering more than 3.3 million families in 46 states access to services.

In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency, noting that child and adolescent healthcare professionals are “caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families and their communities.” 

West Virginia, like the rest of the country, is facing a shortage of traditional mental health services. More than 700,000 people in the state live in communities that do not have enough mental health professionals. The WVDE will open access to underserved communities throughout West Virginia through ParentGuidance.org. Regardless of financial means, those needing help will have a direct line of support. Counties may also customize professional development sessions with The Cook Center to meet their individual needs. Bullying mitigation, isolation and absenteeism are examples of nationally recognized programs available at reduced costs for counties.

“Our educators are experiencing several mental health behaviors in our children that they have not seen previously,” said State Superintendent of Schools Michele L. Blatt. “ParentGuidance.org will provide resources that have never been reasonably available to many West Virginia families and communities. This will be a great asset and will make a difference in the lives of our children, the stability of our families, the mental health of teachers and school employees, and the progress of our schools.” 

“We are proud to collaborate with the West Virginia Department of Education for the benefit of West Virginia families. This shows that they truly care about the role of parents in their children’s emotional well-being,” said Cook Center for Human Connection President and CEO Anne Brown. “By providing education, resources, and direct support to families, we look forward to helping the people who love and care for their children most: the parents.” 

West Virginia families can learn more at Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Children or ParentGuidance.org, and counties will also offer direct access on their websites as plans are rolled out statewide.

About the Cook Center for Human Connection 

The mission of the Cook Center for Human Connection is to bring together the best organizations, programs and products to prevent suicide, provide mental health support and enhance the human connections vital for people to thrive. The foundation’s current focus is on supporting children, families and schools with youth mental health resources and with the goal of eradicating suicide. This work is accomplished through various grants to schools, programs for parents and global resources to bring greater awareness to the support needed for those affected by mental health needs and suicide. Their free resources created to support child mental health and prevent suicide include  My Life Is Worth Living™, the first animated series about teen mental health and suicide prevention and ParentGuidance.org, a mental health resource giving parents the tools to have important conversations at home. Learn more at CookCenterforHumanConnection.org.

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