OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — If a school shooting or tragic death happens, you always hear about extra counselors and resources available to students. A new tool takes those extra resources a step further.  

The United Way of the Emerald Coast created crisis kits to be placed in schools. The kits include different ways to distract a student’s brain if a crisis strikes. 

“The stickers, the crayons, and the coloring books. There’s a little bit of science behind it if you can occupy their mind, then their brain will be able to shift from the fight or flight to the executive mode and then help them talk and process the situation that’s going on,” said Brian Hayes, mental health counselor at Pryor Middle School.

Okaloosa County School District has a crisis response team made of staff and counselors across the area if a shooting or tragic death occurs. The kits provide a uniform way to immediately help when arriving at a campus in need. 

“In years past when we’ve activated the crisis response team, it was each individual provider just grabbing whatever they could, coloring books, crayons, and we’d all just show up ready with our own individual staff, which just added an extra layer of like stress right to the provider,” said Choctawhatchee High School mental health provider Heather Powell. “So it’s really nice to know that together everyone achieves more like we really can just show up and have all of these activities and necessary items in one location.” 

The Women United ground with the United Way of the Emerald Coast made six crisis kits for Okaloosa County, two for each school level. Walton County will be next.

Mental health specialists say these kids are needed across the panhandle because trauma can happen anywhere.

“We absolutely know that the mental health crisis is a real thing and there is so much trauma in our area, like so much trauma. It can be acute trauma like a car crash, but it’s not going away. So it’s important that it expands and that we do recognize it as a group, as a collective community, and sort of support these kids all together,” said Powell. 

The United Way did not specify when the kits will be made for Walton County schools.  

Learn more about the Women United group online.