PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — With mental health awareness on the rise after Hurricane Michael, both students and staff are seeking help. Now, Bay District Schools are sharing just what those student wellness numbers look like.
Since the beginning of this school year, the district has recorded 201 Baker Acts. Under Florida’s Baker Act a person showing signs of mental disorder can be involuntarily committed for 72 hours.
With school staff and administrators trained in youth mental health first aid, they look for signs such as withdrawal, aggressive behavior, mood swings and lack of appetite.
“Because of all the training and professional development that we’ve pushed into the schools, our staff are more alert and more aware of the signs and indicators of when our students are at risk for such mental health issues. So we are better prepared to respond to those situations,” said Student Services Director, Kara Mulkusky.
Similar to Baker Acts, the district has had high numbers of community care referrals.
“The district is at a total of 848 community of care referrals. Those are referrals of mental health services that come from the schools. Our school-based problem-solving team can refer a student in need of mental health services or it can be a family or parent request,” said Mulkusky.
From there, staff works with the family to pair the students with a mental health provider. But, there were issues before the hurricane.
“We had populations of students who were experiencing trauma, depression, anxiety well before the storm, and that it has since significantly increased since after Hurricane Michael. And even though we are this far out we know that those issues are still very much real,” said Mulkusky.
Student services staff say they are fortunate to be equipped with lots of resources to help those in need of mental health assistance.
Bay District Schools says they will continue their work to make sure all students and staff get the support and services they need.