Homelessness and mental health issues at an all time high in Bay District Schools

Via Peters

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Bay District School officials say mental health issues and homelessness are at an all-time high.

Superintendent Bill Husfelt addressed these issues in a video message posted to the district’s Facebook page last Friday. He said while it is a very challenging time in education right now, the district is working hard to help students. But, he’s also asking for the community’s help.

As we emerge from the pandemic, some would say the effects of that, on top of Hurricane Michael, aren’t fading away anytime soon.

“What we’re seeing is an increase in anxiety and depression with kids,” District Mental Health Counselor Ken Chisholm said.

Bay District School officials said this leads to more students needing mental health help.

“We were providing services after Hurricane Michael and we thought it was pretty rough then. We’re probably seeing somewhere in the neighborhood a 30% to 40% over that time with the stressors caused by the pandemic.”

Husfelt said they’ve had more than 600 Community of Care referrals this school year to date.

“That means that we’ve had people try to come in, counselors and professional behavioral specialists and those people try to counsel our kids and the challenges of what they’re facing at home,” said Husfelt.

And at home is where Husfelt said these mental health issues start.

“Almost every child that we know that’s struggling, isn’t struggling from what’s going on in the school, they’re struggling from what’s going on in the home or what’s not going on in the home,” said Husfelt.

Many in the district also struggle with not having a home at all. An issue Husfelt said is a bigger problem in the district now than ever before. According to district public information, out of the more than 26,000 students, more than 1,200 of them are homeless.

“I’ve talked to a student who’s moved over a dozen times because they can’t maintain a place to live,” said Chisholm.

Chisholm said not having a place to live goes hand in hand with students’ mental health issues.

“Our children deserve the best that we can give them and the community needs to help be involved in that,” said Husfelt.

Now, the district is calling on the community for help.

“We want to do the best we can to help all children, but we’re needing help. We’re needing the communities to step up, we’re needing the parents and families to step up to help get our children to the best place and safe place mentally to take care of themselves,” said Husfelt.

Because the best is what district officials say they want for their students.

NewsChannel 7 requested an interview with Husfelt Monday, but he was unavailable.

Chisholm said the district has mental health counselors in every school, as well as providing individual or group therapy to the students who need help. For more information on mental health services the district provides, visit Mental Health Organizations or Mental Health Resources.

Copyright 2021 WJHG. All rights reserved.


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