Bay District Schools officials discuss plan for district-wide mental health education

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. — As schools continue to recover and rebuild from the hurricane, students, staff and faculty struggle with mental health issues affecting life in and outside of the classroom. 

“The kids are experiencing depression, anxiety, and are upset over the conditions they’re living in,” said Bay District Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt.

As of October, there have been 80 Baker Act incidents in Bay District Schools and over 3 thousand students have been identified as homeless. District officials are working on a plan to mitigate that, which was presented to the School Board on Tuesday.

“There’s some things we put together with the health department, and some other things to try to help our students try to understand what they’re dealing with, the challenges they’re facing,” said Husfelt.

The programs, which range from substance abuse education, to suicide prevention and mental health awareness, to other issues, are for students of all ages; helping each age group learn more about the specific issues they’re dealing with and how to cope.

The district also hopes to offer resources to faculty and staff who are struggling as well. 

“The community overall has been devastated by something that none of us ever envisioned, and the capacity to deal with that —  we’re all on edge,” said Husfelt.

Along with the education programs, “tele-mental health” kiosks have also been set up, as per First Lady of Florida Casey DeSantis’s mental health initiative. 

So far, 38 kiosks have been set up and 30 school staff members are trained on how to use them.

The district has reported that two therapy in-take sessions have been completed with the kiosks. 

“We just need to help them understand that what they’re facing is normal,” said Husfelt. “We want to help you, we love you, we care about you and this is just a part of that whole process.”

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