In the aftermath of the unspeakable loss at a Parkland High School, mental health facilities in Florida are seeing a spike in admissions. Nationally, medical professionals have recognized a new pattern which affects children’s mental heath centers – school shootings lead to an influx of new patients.
Since the February 14 event, the 40 beds at Jackson Memorial’s children’s and adolescent psychiatric unit have been at or near capacity. The same beds usually operated with only about one-third filled prior to the mass shooting.
The majority of kids filling those beds are middle schoolers about 12 to 13-years old. Most are reportedly experiencing acute anxiety, depression and fear.
Professionals believe the reason for the additional need is sadly simple – children do not feel safe.
The chief medical officer of Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital in Miami, Patricia Ares-Romero, had this to say, “Children are supposed to be happy — maybe a little concerned about whether they’re getting good grades, or if they are going to get grounded. Right now, they’re scared.”
The other reason for the influx may be that parents and caretakers have a heightened awareness of what can happen when mental goes unchecked or remains untreated.
The coverage of the Parkland school shooting has made the awareness palatable not only throughout Brevard County, but throughout Florida and the rest of the United States.
In fact, medical and mental care professionals across the country have reported an uptick in the evaluations and admissions of children.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has taken notice. In his address on Friday, he introduced ed a $500 million proposal to bolster security at Florida’s schools. Also included is a $50 million of additional funding for children’s mental health services.
Scott added, “We must expand mental health service teams statewide to serve youth and young adults with early or serious mental illness by providing counseling, crisis management and other critical mental health services.”
As a service to the community, the Broward County Public Schools district is offering free counseling for anyone who needs it.
The district has grief counselors available at the Parkland Recreation and Enrichment Center located at 10561 Trails End, Parkland, Florida. Students, their families, or any citizen feeling the need for counseling may participate.
A 24-hour/day phone hotline has also been set up. The number to call for help for information is: 754-321-HELP.
Additionally, help is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Obtain help by texting “FL” to 741741.
The offer of support comes a week after 17 people were killed and more than a dozen injured when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student, opened fire in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County (Parkland) Florida.