MONTEVALLO, AL (WBRC) - Shelby Cares might be one of the most comprehensive measures you’ll find in Alabama schools to meet the needs of students beyond their academic achievement. Students in Shelby County are learning about the school system’s resources available to assist those in crisis.
"Just as we have talked about intellectual development, we know as adolescents where you guys are right now you are also developing socially and intellectually. “We want to make sure you have all the resources in place to make that transition into adulthood," Rene Day tells a classroom at Montevallo Intermediate.
She projects the Shelby Cares website, pointing to a flashing red button. “One of the things I want to show you is this button that says get assistance now.”
That button connects to hotline number for anything from rape response, suicide prevention, and more available to students 24-hours a day.
In the last couple of years, three students in Shelby County schools didn't get the help they needed and took their own lives. While it didn't happen on school property, the system set out to make a difference, launching Shelby Cares in 2018 to make sure every student knows they can always get help.
The three pillars of the program are: Connect, Communicate, and Care.
Connect and communicate target the feelings of isolation students in crisis often feel, and care encourages students to not only reach out and care for a fellow student but care for themselves.
Shelby County Schools now has a partnership with Chilton Shelby Mental Health bringing trained professionals in for students who may need the emotional support, beyond students who may already be diagnosed with mental health concerns.
Day meticulously walks students through creating a crisis management plan. Schools have all kinds of plans for disasters, including severe weather and active shooters, so she believes planning for crisis makes sense.
That includes bullying.
Related: Stop the Bullying
"If I was being picked on, personally, I feel like I would need to deal with the subject and not bring anyone else in it and get them involved," one student tells us.
That student’s mentality is consistent with the research from experts who say children don't automatically tell their parents if they are having a problem at school. They may rather turn to a peer.
Peer support is a big part of Shelby Cares.
Day told us social media brings a whole new area of concern from when she was growing up.
"We had an instance the other day where someone posted on Instagram with some not very kind things to say and I want to say the person who posts didn't understand the degree to what they were doing. But can you imagine on your worst day having someone take a picture and posting it on Instagram and bringing the world’s attention to it? I think it would be hurtful for an adult, but it truly devastating for a student. I don't care if it is an elementary, middle or high school student. That's devastating."
Mike Jones, the Student Services Supervisor told us all those same resources are also available to the students showing aggression. Jones adds, "What our school based mental health counselors are able to do is get with students who are experiencing low self-esteem or who are going through crisis situations of their own and hopefully it will help them cope so they don't have those negative behaviors."
Shelby Cares wants to give students empowering tools to make wise decisions, even in crisis situations so the outcome is they win in life.
“It’s more than a campaign. It’s more like a movement,” says Jones. “We want to implement a positive culture in schools to connect communicate and make sure we care about every student."