Mental health struggles on the rise in kids; resources available in SWFL

The number of pediatric mental health visits is rising as more kids experience struggles during this time of social distancing and isolation.

Southwest Florida is providing resources for those who need them most.

Behavioral and health challenges forced Gabby Beaulieu to spend time away from school and friends in middle school. The isolation came with a heavy price.

“I thought she was upstairs doing homework and she actually upstairs Googling how to kill yourself,” said her mom, Jeanne Beaulieu.

When Gabby returned to school, she overdosed on cold medicine, Beaulieu said.

“She took a box of Advil Cold and Sinus with her and took 18 of them in the girls’ bathroom.”

In that moment, Gabby reached out to a school staff member she trusted and got the help she needed.

Now, the Beaulieus want more options in schools for kids in crisis.

“We were able to kick start that program to get the navigators in the school,” Beaulieu said.

“If you have somebody that really is struggling with mental health issues or whatever, all they need to do is contact your guidance counselor at the school,” said Joe Craig, a mental health navigator with Kids’ Minds Matter.

Craig is the first mental health navigator in the state and says the pandemic increased the number of kids struggling with mental health.

“A lot of anger, a lot of resentment, but mostly depression.”

From September to mid-November, Golisano Children’s Hospital saw a 66% rise in children held for mental evaluation. Most were high school girls.

Pediatric behavioral health Dr. Jason Sabo says that’s where Kids’ Minds Matter comes in.

“What Kids’ Minds Matter has been trying to do and I think successfully doing is really filling in those gaps and trying to find the holes of who’s falling through the cracks,” he said.

“Without them and their resources, I don’t know where Gabby would be today,” Beaulieu said.

“It takes a lot of work to get from where she was to where she is.”

Kids’ Minds Matter is hosting a virtual event Thursday evening. It’s called “Unmasking the Epidemic” and begins at 7 p.m. It will go over the mental health resources available to local families, like the Mental Health Navigator program and Golisano’s Pediatric Behavioral Health unit.


Warning signs to look out for in your child:

  • Isolation or refusal to attend school;
  • Changes in eating habits;
  • Withdrawal from peers or social activities;
  • Withdrawal from extracurricular activities at school or in the community; and/or
  • Reports of bullying, harassment, or intimidation in school, the community, or on social media.

Kids’ Minds Matter:

SalusCare has a weekly zoom support group for parents. It’s free and you do not need to be a client. It’s Monday nights at 7. Zoom ID: 975 9545 3712 Password: 488302

SalusCare Emergency Services: 239-275-4242

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255​

Disaster Distress Helpline:​

Parent/Caregiver Guide for Helping Families Cope with COVID-19:​​

Smart Social: Monitor your kids online​

National Association of School Psychologists: School safety and crisis

David Lawrence Center website for children

If you or a loved one are struggling, you can find support by visiting resources on the NAMI website.

For a comprehensive list of resources and organizations, you can visit This is My Brave.

For additional tools, including a treatment locator, you can visit the CDC’s mental health web page.


FGCU Community Counseling Center

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry counties

Lee Health – Behavioral Health

Lee Health Foundation’s – ‘Kids Minds Matter’

The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers

Collier County Mental Health Court

Lee County Mental Health Court

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help)

Southwest Florida Resource Link–substance-abuse

Stop Now And Plan (SNAP)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Talking to kids about suicide

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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