ACS working to address mental health needs of students

By NATHAN HOWELL | Staff Writer

ALABASTER – In order to better address the mental health and wellness of their students, the Alabaster City Schools system recently brought on a mental health coordinator, and are creating initiatives to better address these issues.

After the Alabama State Department of Education allocated more than $4.5 million this year for schools to create this position, ACS brought on Debbie Brinson, who had previously been working as a therapeutic therapist in the schools, for this position.

“When this position came up I thought that this would be a great opportunity to forward my passions and to help students address and improve their mental wellness,” Brinson said. “Children and their parents have many different needs, and through this position I believe I will be more equipped to address those.”

In her prior role as the school’s therapist, Brinson said that she directly went into the schools and met with students and talked to them about whatever issue they may be facing. However, in this new role she is better able to provide resources for the students and their parents to hopefully ensure that they receive individualized care and support.

“With my history and experience in this field for more than 20 years I know how therapy works, I know how insurance works and other complicated parts of the process,” Brinson explained. “Navigating all of these things can be kind of confusing for the parents, so I am able to assist with that. I can get referrals from the counselors and then use that information to help guide parents and students to the appropriate resources.”

May is nationally recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, and Brinson said that the school system and the city are working together to use the month as a way to highlight the importance of these resources, and to hopefully crush some of the stigma associated with getting help.

“Unfortunately, there is still a stigma towards mental health, especially with teens,” Brinson explained. “We want to use the month to educate them and their parents, so that no one feels any shame for seeking out resources. “

Brinson and ACS plan to put out videos on social media with information about mental health as part of this campaign. They also plan to participate in the “Green Ribbon Campaign,” which encourages everyone to wear green to symbolize mental health awareness.

According to the National Federation of Families, green was originally used to label individuals as insane. As a way of overwriting this narrative, many mental health groups now use it to signify the important benefits that getting assistance with mental health can provide.

The Future Health Professionals organization, HOSA, will also be doing a campaign of their own. It is a community service project that will involve making fliers with information and passing them out to students at the school.

All of these things are designed to achieve the overall goal of improving the lives of students who attend Alabaster City School. Brinson said she was excited to tackle this, and hopefully be a positive force in the lives of students.

“Mental health problems often emerge in school,” she explained. “Early identification often prevents worsening of the symptoms. One in five students deal with some kind of mental health problems, so we want to make sure that we get them these resources and take care of them to ensure their success.”