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Mental health concerns rise, Leon County Schools addressing year of trauma

Posted at 7:21 PM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 19:21:18-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Mental health is top of mind for Leon County students this year. Dealing with the stress of schoolwork, growing up, and now COVID-19, Leon County Schools Assistant Superintendent Alan Cox says they have seen a growing demand for help.

"The increase of calls from last year and this year are an indication of that," said Dr. Cox.

Cox says after the start of the pandemic, every school saw an increase in students expressing mental health concerns.

"Students don't do well with quarantine or an upset in routine. On our website, this is interesting from last year, we have a whole button dedicated to mental health and social-emotional health. We have a hotline and that's what many of them used last year. It's amazing how many reached out and found that number," he said.

Leon County Schools is now prioritizing getting students the help they need. In every school, there's a: psychologist, social worker, guidance counselors, behavioral specialists, and a Disc Village representative.

"DISC Village has a curriculum they used called Horizons that deals with character education, substance abuse, those kinds of things," said Cox.

Just two months into the school year, LCS has had to send Big Bend Hospice grief counselors three times; twice to Canopy Oaks following the death of a third-grader and PE Coach and just this week the death of a teacher a Fairview Middle School.

Katie Kleiner is one of those grief counselors.

"What we're really wanting to do is provide some grief education as far as what to expect over the next days, weeks and months, because we all know, grief has no time schedule, but there are some things we can expect," she said.

Kleiner says the best way to approach the topic is with an open conversation.

"Using age-appropriate terms for their developmental level and letting their questions guide the conversation can be helpful because children will give cues when they've heard enough or when they need a break," she said.

Big Bend Hospice says they have also seen an increase in calls for grief counselors since the start of the pandemic. Both LCS and Big Bend Hospice say if you're dealing with any mental health needs, reach out immediately.