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  • Writer's pictureKatie Madyun

Student ACES Works to Help Students Get Through Mental Health Crises

Original article written and published by Cathy Womble of South Central Florida Life - see full article here.

Beginning on July 18, 2022, a new resource becomes available for those experiencing mental health crisis. Similar to dialing 911 to reach emergency medical services or 211 to learn about resources available in the community where you live, 988 will be the number to call, chat or text for help with mental health issues. Anyone who utilizes the number will be connected to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network, where trained counselors will provide support and connect them to resources to assist with mental or behavioral health issues.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there was one death by suicide every 11 minutes in the United States in 2020, and suicide is the leading cause of death in those age 10-34.

Believing our nation’s youth are among those most susceptible to anxiety, fear and depression, Student ACES, a south Florida-based 501c3 organization with the mission to inspire and develop high school student athletes to become men and women of character, honor and integrity through character education programs, is working to combat this.

Krissy Webb, Executive Director of Student ACES, was trained as an instructor in mental health first aid, a national program aimed at supporting individuals suffering with mental health challenges until appropriate professional help arrives.

Webb and her father, Buck Martinez, started Student ACES in 2013 after a conversation about what was being taught to high school students now to prepare them to be future leaders of our country. Webb asked her father, “Who will my kids look up to?” The two believe every student deserves access to character education in order to help them succeed and together came up with the plan to begin Student ACES with the goal of instilling values into the next generation of leaders and role models. “It all boils down to teaching character education to high school student athletes,” said Webb. “We do this all-over South Florida.”

She went on to explain ACES attempts to teach students how to deal with things they see coming up regularly. One of the issues they noticed was becoming more and more of a problem was mental health. “Students were struggling with anxiety and depression and not knowing how to handle failure.” After some investigation, they found mental health first aid. “It’s just like CPR but for mental health,” Webb said. “It’s an eight-hour training.” Webb completed the course herself and then brought everything she learned back to students in South Florida.

As of April 2022, 55 students on high school campuses throughout South Florida have been trained in the program and are able to support fellow students experiencing a crisis until help arrives. “They are the first responders on their campuses.” In addition, many of the skills Webb was taught were woven into the curriculum they use at the centers.

According to their website, “Students who participate in ACE programs improve in all aspects of their lives.  Preliminary data is showing increases in grades, nutrition, health, post high school advancement, securing funding for higher education, employment, entrepreneurial endeavors, improved mental health, and higher rates of resilience and hope.”

All Student ACES programs are completely free to the students.

In order to apply to join the Student ACES Center, students must

  • be in enrolled at Glades Central, Pahokee, Everglades Prep, Glades Day, FLVS or Palm Beach State College or a local middle school.

  • Complete the proper interview & registration procedure.

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