Sarasota County schools tackles mental health at elementary level
SARASOTA - Mental health and the negative notation attached to it often go hand in hand. However, Sarasota County schools are paving the way for a solution to end the stigma.
The County received over a million dollars in funding for mental health care which they are using to add mental health therapists for 16 elementary schools and seven middle schools. Kirsten Russell with Community Foundation of Sarasota County says the ‘trauma informed’ method helps to unify schools, students and parents.
“The advantage of having professionals who know how to work through those emotions with children at a young age is that they’re equipped, and then you can build on that. If they’re never given the skills to work through that at a young age, then it can creep up on them," says Russell.
Russell says the program will help school staff differentiate between simple behavioral problems versus a mental health issue.
"And just beginning to drill down and have those conversations when a child is young has a profound impact on their well- being and their ability to learn," says Russell.
Melissa Bradley with The Florida Center for Early Childhood says meeting the mental health needs in the classroom is vital to protecting the learning process.
“We have caseloads at about 20 to 25 per school. And really those students are the students the school has tried their traditional intervention and they have not been successful," says Bradley.
She adds having a trained mental health therapist readily available helps to bridge the gap. “The really great thing is that students who would not have been able to receive help are now able to have access to that," says Bradley.
Visit The Florida Center for Early Childhood for more information on early childhood mental health.