Free back-to-school mental health symposium

Parents in Lake Charles and Sulphur can hear from licensed, professional counselors about mental health, school resources, bullying, social media, gaming and other topics during an upcoming Emotional and Behavioral Health Symposium.

The events are set for 9 a.m.-1 p.m. July 20 at Wiley B. McMillan Park Family Community Center, 343 Goos Blvd., and July 27 at St. Peter Claver Hall, 465 Maple St., Sulphur.

Tawana Smith, a local social worker, said she wanted to host a back-to-school event that would help the community in a different way than providing supplies.

“To my knowledge, there’s never been any type of backto-school events in which they talk to parents or students about getting in a routine, setting up a schedule, managing stress and those type of things,” she said.

Giving parents the tools to be successful helps students manage positive and negative experiences at school, Smith said.

Niki Polk, a local school social worker and panelist, will lead a session on navigating school resources and bullying. She said many parents are unaware of what to do when they need help from the school system.

“They’re their kids’ best resource,” she said. “It’s up to them to make sure the kid gets enough sleep, has a calm morning and keeps a good relationship with the teachers.”

The symposium will also teach parents how to identify behavioral health issues, such as attention-deficit disorder, anxiety, depression and suicide.

Parents will also have time to meet with the panel of counselors.

“We’re not here just preaching,” Smith said. “We want to hear the feedback because each session is going to build on the session before.”

The goal, Polk said, is for students to improve academically.

“As social workers, this is something dear to us because we work with the kids in this community,” she said. “We know how mental and behavioral health affects their school performance.”

Registration for both sessions begins at 8:30 a.m. For more, visit Eventbrite online or email