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Family honors North Stanly High graduate, counselor sounds off on mental health

North Stanly High School graduate Omar Greene is being remembered as a selfless teen who cherished every moment he spent with his family. 

Greene, 18, drowned July 3 on Badin Lake while swimming with two of his friends. 

“In my eyes he was the greatest thing since sunshine,” Greene’s cousin Chrissy Owens said on Tuesday. “Definitely an all-around great person.”

Owens said the thing Greene valued most was family. She mentioned Greene was named after his uncle, who drowned 21 years ago. Owens talked about how Omar would look after her 7-year-old son when she was away, and how close they were.

“He got down on my son’s level,” Owens said. “He would do anything for you. All you had to do was ask him.”

According to his cousin, Greene loved to play basketball. She said it was common for him to shoot around at any hoop he could find. Owens said he also played video games like NBA 2K19 and Call of Duty frequently. 

After high school, Greene planned to attend Stanly Community College early to take the SAT, Owens said. Greene had plans to attend a four-year college to pursue a career as an air traffic controller. 

“My uncle actually had Omar driving a helicopter last year for his birthday,” she added. 

Greene’s death is the latest in a string of incidents involving teenagers. On June 9, 19-year-old

Taylor Liles

Taylor Liles was killed after an alleged domestic related assault. Seventeen-year-old Joseph Desouza was killed after he was shot on Inger Street in Albemarle on June 22. Two days later, 19-year-old Cole Mabry died after his vehicle ran off the side of the road while driving and struck a culvert near Rockwell.

Some are wondering about what is being done to help young people in Stanly County cope with the loss of their loved ones. 

Cole Mabry

Elizabeth Ritter, a licensed professional counselor in Albemarle, thinks schools in Stanly County should add more about mental health to the curriculum. 

“I think that mental health needs to be an issue that we’re discussing in pre-k,” Ritter said. “It needs to be something that we’re talking about in an age-appropriate way.” 

On average, Ritter sees about three to four young people dealing with the loss of a loved one per month. Ritter said she uses different methods to help teens, depending on their age and where they are at developmentally. 

“I think their belief system also has a lot to do with it,” Ritter said. 

According to Ritter, young people have an easier time dealing with loss if they believe that person is in a better place. She said adolescents may have a tougher time coping if they do not understand what happens to a person after they die. 

Ritter said many believe people only experience grief for a certain amount of time. In Ritter’s opinion, this is not the case. 

“Grief is not really something that has a time limit on it,” Ritter said. “It’s more about getting better each day.” 

Ritter thinks social media is a “double-edged sword” when it comes to young people grieving over a loss. She believes some aspects of social media have made it easier for kids to communicate and share their feelings. However, Ritter thinks the abundance of information online regarding mental health can be staggering. 

“You know, there’s online journals and places where kids can share their feelings and emotions without being judged,” Ritter said. “There’s also another side to that, where they have access to a whole lot of information that I think is overwhelming to them, just because they’re not developmentally ready for it.”  

Ritter said one of the best ways young people can cope with loss is by talking about it. While there are counselors available to help in the area, Ritter said children should also discuss issues they are having with trusted family members and friends. She believes parents can help their children who are coping by validating any feelings they may have. 

“We don’t always have to agree with them,” Ritter said. “We just need to say, ‘I understand.’ That will go a long, long way for them.”

It’s also helpful for young people to honor the person they have lost, Ritter said. Many families have planted gardens or dedicated buildings to their loved ones to preserve their memory. Others participate in annual charity walks as a tribute to their loved ones.

Owens said her family will honor Greene’s memory by cherishing all of the good memories they have of him and talk about how being a great person. 

“I miss him so much,” Owens said. “I thank God that I had a chance to be a part of his life.”