ALBERTVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The Aggie Advocacy Center, located in the Alumni House on East Alabama Avenue in Albertville, started in 2021. It’s designed to be a neutral space that doesn’t feel like school, a place where families can go to have difficult conversations and interventions.

Kristi Rains, Aggie Advocacy Center Counseling and Mental Health Services Coordinator, says “Through the advocacy center…what better way to advocate for students than to really empower and equip their parents to be that team player.”

We’re nine weeks into the school year, and around 150 students have already been served at the Aggie Advocacy Center in Albertville. Now more than ever, center officials say this program is playing a huge role in the school district.

“I think in districts similar to ours, you’re going to have lots of students with needs,” said Rains. “I think the exciting thing is to be able to say there are 150 students who have some needs met, they’re not sitting in the classroom being distracted or unmotivated from those needs that they had that we were able to reach out and meet.”

Suicide prevention is something schools have been required to train their staff on and talk to their students about. Rains tells News 19 those conversations have already been had this year.

“Interestingly, our first two students to express some type of suicidal thoughts this school year was actually third graders,” said Rains.

Even though they’re young, Rains says parents should talk with their kids about the meaning behind suicide. School counselors are also available for parents to talk about individual situations.

“For whatever reason, I think a lot of it is now people do talk about suicide more which can be a great thing but at the same time… kids are who are younger or maybe too young to know what that means pick up on some of that wording. They start to use it when they’re frustrated with making a low grade on a test and they say, ‘I just want to kill myself,” added Rains. 

This year, Albertville City Schools has partnered with Mountain Lakes Behavioral Healthcare to have a dedicated mental health therapist serving students in the district only.  

“We have a fall break coming up, schools will be closed but a student’s needs sometimes continue,” Rains explained. “That school-based mental health therapist will be available to schedule times to have students come here to the advocacy center to be able to meet and continue that mental health care – even in times of school closure.”

There are resources for both students and parents to utilize. You can view them here