During Tuesday night’s Leon County School Board meeting, Leon County Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Alan Cox discussed the mental health of Leon County students.
Dr. Cox explained that they have received an increase in referrals from students who feel they need help coping with depression and anxiety due to social isolation during the 2020 and 2021 school years.
In the first semester the new referral totals for elementary school children were 108, for middle school children the total was 188, and for high school students the total referrals for the first semester were 113.
Cox felt it was necessary to explain what the schools are offering to students and parents to aid in coping.
Cox noted that there is on-going professional development for teachers and parents related to warning signs of distressed students and using the Digital Academy to focus on identifying these signs during virtual teaching. Also, professionals, such as school-based mental health service providers, school social workers, school support staff, teachers, and community-based providers, are available for students.
In addition, Cox explained that multiple programs have been put in place for students to access coping methods. One such program is a 16-week course called New Horizons, which focuses on communication and decision-making skills. The program uses activities that incorporate information about positive self-esteem, personal responsibility, and the development of coping skills.
Another program offered in Leon schools is the DISC Village Youth Counseling Program. The program focuses on the behavior, mental health and physical well-being of students. It targets anxiety, depression, anger management, and self-esteem. The initiatives include creating a team of social workers and psychologists that put together activities for students as well as lessons for teachers to access online.