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Program offers free counseling for Pulaski County students and educators

Many people are dealing with mental health issues from COVID-19, and Pulaski County has launched a program to help educators and students through this tough time.

LITTLE ROCK, Pulaski County — Many people are dealing with mental health issues from COVID-19, and Pulaski County has launched a program aimed at helping educators and students through this tough time.

“We will listen and there are resources available that, 'hey if I can't help you, I'm going to try to find someone who can,'” said Susan Whatley, a Pulaski County Special School District elementary counselor.

Whatley is making sure her students and families are aware now of Pulaski County's new Mental Health Heroes Program.

Because every day and more frequently she speaks with children who've struggled mentally throughout the pandemic while some have lost loved ones to the virus.

"Each one of us is affected in a different way, and sometimes you might just need someone to talk to for 15 minutes, or you may need to speak with someone on a more regular basis over a period, so it's great to have this service available,” said Whatley.

The county-funded program is designed to provide free therapy and counseling for students and teachers in Pulaski County who have lost a loved one to COVID-19.

"My lord, if you lost a colleague or someone in the same building as you and you’re just supposed to show back up to work? That's not the society that we are or that we should be,” said Jamie Scott, the executive director of Pulaski County Youth Services.

The county has partnered with six businesses to provide these services.

The counseling will target academic loss and learning enhancement opportunities, physical fitness, nutrition, and fun events for families and staff members.

"We are trying to do as many as we can. We are just doing a big promotion right now to get the resource out to the community,” said Scott.

Whatley has seen firsthand more children seeking help for coping mechanisms during the pandemic.

She has high hopes that the Mental Health Heroes Program will help the emotional well-being of the community.

"I'm hoping this program leads people to recognize it's okay to feel sad, or stressed out, nervous or anxious about something,” said Whatley.

If you attend school as a student, educator, or support staff in a Pulaski County school district, it’s easy to sign up for this program.

You can head to the county’s website here to fill out forms.