Homelessness and mental health issues at record high in Bay District schools

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 the issues in a video post posted to the district’s Facebook page last Friday. He said that although it is a very difficult time in education right now, the district is working hard to help the students. But, he also asks for help from the community.

As we emerge from the pandemic, some would say that the effects of this, in addition to Hurricane Michael, are not fading anytime soon.

“What we are seeing is an increase in anxiety and depression in children,” said district mental health counselor Ken Chisholm.

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

“We were providing services after Hurricane Michael and we thought it was quite difficult at the time. We’re probably seeing somewhere in the neighborhood a 30-40% increase during that time with the stressors caused by the pandemic. “

Husfelt said they have received over 600 Community of Care referrals this school year to date.

“It means we’ve had people trying to come in, professional counselors and behavioralists and these people are trying to counsel our kids and the challenges they face at home,” Husfelt said.

And it is at home that Husfelt said these mental health issues are starting.

“Almost every child we know who struggles, isn’t fighting what’s going on at school, they’re fighting what’s going on at home or what’s not happening at home,” Husfelt said.

Many in the district are also struggling not to have homes at all. According to Husfelt, a problem is more serious than ever in the district. According to district public information, out of more than 26,000 students, more than 1,200 of them are homeless.

“I spoke to a student who has moved more than a dozen times because he can’t keep a place to live,” Chisholm said.

Chisholm said not having housing goes hand in hand with students’ mental health issues.

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

Now the district is calling on the community for help.

“We want to do our best to help all the children, but we need help. We need communities to grow, we need parents and families to come together to help our children find the best place and a mentally safe place 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 on Monday, but he was not available.

Chisholm said the district has mental health counselors in each school, and offers individual or group therapy to students who need help. For more information on the mental health services provided by the district, visit Mental health organizations Where Mental health resources.

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