Mobile County Public School System discusses mental health resources for students

Mobile County Public School System discusses mental health resources for students
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 4:15 PM CST
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) -“Not presently in one of our schools but in one of our schools early on so we had another teen suicide,” said Douglas Harwell.

That comment by school board member Douglas Harwell sparked a conversation about mental health and the resources available to teenagers.

“We’ve got to start seeing the suicide rate come down,” said Johnny Hatcher. “It’s steadily going up the adolescent suicide rate. We’ve got to work on that.”

The school system says they are taking steps to help. Currently every Mobile County public school has at least one counselor on campus as well as every feeder pattern being assigned a social worker. It’s all part of a safety team that’s trained on what signs to look for in students.

“We’re looking for changes in patterns of behavior. We always look at attendance believe it or not is one of the biggest issues,” said Denise Riemer, Lead Social Worker and Mental Health Services Coordinator. “Attendance, grades, discipline so if we see a change in behavior of a child, we ask those questions like why.”

The school system also has a program called life safe on all student devices that can keep track of any concerning online activity.

“They type in something about self-harm or harm to others that immediately is captured, and it’s sent to a member of the safety team at the schools so we can immediately address it,” said Riemer.

During Thursday’s school board meeting members approved contracts with AltaPointe to continue a 30-year partnership that includes accepting kids to BayPointe hospital if need be.

“We take kids that aren’t able to be successful in a traditional classroom and we bring them to Baypointe and we provide mental health services and the Mobile County School System provides teachers, so they provide educational services,” said Nicolette Harvey, hospital administrator at BayPointe Hospital.

While all sides are still working on more ways to help, they’re urging any teenagers to reach out if they need help.

“It could be their band teacher, it could be their cafeteria worker, if they could reach out to that one adult or maybe a peer that could maybe take them to the counselor so we can get them the help they need,” added Riemer. “There is help there is hope.”

The school system says any mental health resources are always discussed with a student’s parent. They also train faculty members in each school about what to look out for and what steps to take if a student comes to them seeking help.