Blount County Schools is seeing more students with emotional and mental illnesses. According to the school district, this increase is on a scale they’ve never seen before, particularly in lower grades. 

At just one of the district’s 14 elementary schools; three students were on suicide watch, and two students were cutting themselves, dealing with bulimia and even pulling their hair out. The approach to combat the struggles of mental health issues in the district is a multi-year approach on several fronts lasting anywhere from four to five years. Blount County Schools’ health coordinator, Mary Beth Blevins, says the school system does not want to rush this. They want to do it well and with fidelity. 

The first step is forming a response team to serve as positive behavior supports in schools, which BCS has already done. 

Then, it continues with making sure the students know what’s expected of them and what rewards await them after reaching those goals. 

Once staff is trained in positive behavior supports, BCS would like to help other schools who’ve not started this journey yet. 

Each school added will be trained on forming their own teams and developing an independent framework, because each school is different.  

The recommendation to the school board includes the implementation of a social and emotional learning curriculum – there is a cost attached. 

There are 14 elementary schools in Blount County. The plan would be to start in seven schools during year one and then the other seven in year two. That’s on top of a request for additional counselors and school psychologists. 

Blevins says it’s important to note that it’s a small number of students at Blount County Schools who are engaging in this behavior – but it’s more than they’ve seen before, and it creates a far-reaching ripple effect on other students. 

While Blount County Schools might not have a high number of kids battling mental health issues, Blevins says one in four students are battling mental health issues nationwide and this is all in an effort to curb those numbers.