Children struggle with an assortment of mental health issues

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – An unprecedented number of students at Bay District School are experiencing mental health issues. They are dealing with trauma from Hurricane Michael, COVID-19, social media bullying and threats of school shootings.

School officials said students were worried about how their families would pay their bills.

“We have washers and dryers in every elementary school,” Superintendent Bill Husfelt said. “Now why do you think we have washers and dryers in every elementary school? Because many children have no way of getting clean clothes.

Husfelt said it was difficult to provide enough support for all students struggling with mental health issues. 118 students have been Baker Acted this school year because they are suicidal, murderous or psychotic. Nearly 1,300 students were referred to mental health services this year.

“The challenges are real,” Husfelt said. “There is, there is more concern right now for our students well-being, their mental well-being than ever before.

Bills aren’t the only source of trauma.

“This area has been through a category five hurricane, a pandemic and most recently we’ve had wildfires,” said Ken Chisholm, Bay District Schools Mental Health Advisor. “So these kids have been through a lot of trauma, a lot of stress and those are the things that we deal with on a daily basis.”

Sophomores and younger have yet to have a school year uninterrupted by Hurricane Michael or COVID-19.

But Bay District schools received $11.9 million in federal Mental Wellness Restart Grant funds. 35% will be used for endowment. But Husfelt said it wasn’t enough

“We don’t have the resources, the time, or the energy to track every child and what they’re doing,” Husfelt said. “It must be the parents’ responsibility.”

Husfelt said children bring problems from home to school. Parents may be in denial that their child needs help.

“Sometimes parents are in denial,” Husfelt said. “Sometimes parents don’t want us to tell them their child needs advice.

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