MADISON, Ala. (WAFF) - We all know this pandemic has put a lot of new stress on families and students.
Now, Madison County Schools has a person on staff whose job is to make mental health a priority.
Portia Hines is working with teachers, administrators, and counselors to make sure every child at Madison County Schools is receiving the resources they need when it comes to mental health.
“I have been diagnosed with anxiety and we didn’t know about this before, but I think it would have been a lot better if I had had someone there for me," Monrovia Middle School eighth grader Laney said.
Anxiety is just one issue some students tackle. Laney tells us she is hopeful the new mental health services coordinator will change the way her peers view mental health.
“Students and adults right now are really struggling with anxiousness. Being able to give them the language to express what they’re going through and giving them, some coping skills to deal with it," Hines said.
Dr. Rachel Ballard with Madison County Schools tells me a new state grant is making this position possible.
“In my 20 years of experience as an educator, this is the first time I have heard of this role of a mental health services coordinator in a school district," Ballard said.
Like Laney, Ballard says she hopes the role will improve the way students think about mental health.
“If they grow up in our school district and recognize these services are here and it becomes a part of their normal conversations, they will know that they can seek mental health services if needed," Ballard said.
Hines says every staff member is trained to recognize signs that a child may need help.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable because we are working diligently to make sure that every resource that is available to us is in the hands of each child and each staff member who needs it," Hines said.
Hines says if your student is struggling and wants to get help, they can reach out to any staff member they feel comfortable with.
She says their needs will be addressed and then a plan for care will be put in motion.