One local organization is partnering with Hillsborough County Schools to help students with mental health issues.By Casey Albritton

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – One local organization is partnering with Hillsborough County Schools to help students with mental health issues.

“Our kids are struggling. We know they are having a challenging time,” said parent, Damaris Allen.

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Allen has two boys in Hillsborough County Schools and says she’s noticed many students experiencing more mental health issues over the last couple years.

“We’ve gone through a collective trauma, adjusting back to normal,” said Allen.

Aside from the pandemic causing many students to develop anxiety and depression, she says the country’s poliitcal state is also a big factor.

“We’re incredibly divided, there’s not a lot of listening going on… there’s a lot of talking and saying these are my opinions, but there’s not a lot of listening to the other side of it…so of course those things trickle down to our kids. If we are stressed our kids are stressed,” said Allen.

Just as Allen has noticed the mental health problem in schools, the Hillsborough County School District has too.

“Baker acts for children in the schools have been increasing,” said Joe Rutherford, CEO of Gracepoint Wellness,

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Rutherford says his organization has partnered with the district to create a mobile response team.

“It’s made up of twelve dedicated staff,” said Rutherford.

It’s made of experts in mental health. He says the goal of the mobile unit is to respond to calls and to get children help to avoid any unnecessary meaures.

“To come and either calm the child down or to identify other resources for that child other than to baker-act,” said Rutherford.

Rutherford says experts have already evaluated over 1,100 students in Hillsborough County.

“As kids came back to school there was probably a greater chance for these mental health symptoms to be observed,” said Rutherford.

Allen says she’s glad the district is taking steps to help students.

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“If you ever get overwhelmed if you ever need help, please ask for it. It is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength,” said Allen.