By Tiniya Bailey
Mental disorders such as ADHD, depression and anxiety are very common in teenagers.. Each individual requires a different support system and these disorders all can affect people in different ways. But there are various ways that you can cope with mental issues that can be healthy or unhealthy. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “20 percent of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition, 10 percent of youth have a behavior or conduct disorder such as ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, eight percent of youth have an anxiety disorder, and suicide is the third leading cause of death. 90 percent of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.”
WCHS Director of Guidance Shannon Fritz explained some different ways one can cope with mental disorders.
“Exercising, spending time with supportive family and friends, getting enough sleep, finding activities to reduce stress,” Fritz said.
Fritz has noticed that some of the most common unhealthy coping method would be avoidance and substance abuse.
“Not address their concerns, turn to outside substances like drugs and alcohol to help cope,” Fritz said.
Teachers are prepared to pay attention and watch for warning signs in mental illnesses. The counseling staff has established a new program at school called “Wellness Wednesday.” Students can sign up for “Wellness Wednesday” on PlusTime.
This program is something that will focus on students’ mental wellness and bring awareness to mental wellness. The program will also practice signs of mental wellness issues and help students who may be better at hiding mental illnesses.
Many teens are less likely to speak because they may consider it a burden or an embarrassment on themselves, which may affect the way teens may react and deal with the mental illness.
Fritz explained the preparation teachers are taking to better address students with known mental illnesses.
“With current training, teachers would know about the basics of mental health and know the warning signs to look for suicide prevention. We will soon be creating a club at school whose goal will be to bring awareness to their peers about good mental health. The club will be called Bring Change to Mind,” Fritz said.
Bring Change to Mind is an national club that is being established at WCHS.
This is different from “Wellness Wednesdays,” but the goal is similar: support students and bring about more awareness.
According to Fritz, the program will be established this semester.
“We will be forming the club during second semester to have a full kick off for the start of next school year,” Fritz said.
WCHS Counselor Haley Armstrong provided some healthy tips to help students cope with mental illnesses and gave some suggestions for teachers to help their students who have mental illnesses.
There are many different things teachers can do to help their students who have these mental illness issues. Armstrong provided some healthy ways that students can relieve some of the stress.
“There are ways to modify the classroom and even desks to help students manage symptoms of anxiety and ADHD especially. Things to keep hands and feet busy like play doh or other fidgets sometimes helps students stave off anxiety. Starting or ending class (in an ideal world where teachers weren’t pressed for time) with a mindfulness activity also helps,” Armstrong said.
School counselors are working hard to get to their students even with their case loads, which can range from 250 to 450 students per counselor. This certainly affects how many students they can see and how often they can see them.
Counselors are easy to reach during school hours and if you feel like you might need more therapy, there are alternative resources for families.
Armstrong offered some information about why school counselors are not able to meet and talk with their students during outside hours.
“School counselors are not able to provide outside counseling and are not licensed for mental health counseling. We are licensed to assist with emotional well-being and can assist to a point, but we often refer students and families to outside therapists and agencies when an issue becomes too major for us to handle in a brief amount of time or if the issue is not affecting school performance,” Armstrong said.