When it Comes to Mental Health Needs, How Can ‘Chaug Help?

Quinn Suomala, Editor

Due to COVID and the extended quarantine that came from it,  many students are struggling more than ever with their mental health, even those who’d never struggled with mental health before the quarantine. Despite this, some students feel that Minnechaug has made very few changes to how it is dealing with mental health, even though I discovered that the school has made some significant shifts to reach students in need.

Nationwide suicide rates, anxiety, and depression have been rising over the past year, and teens have been hit the hardest. According to William Wan, a reporter in the Washington Post, “young adults have been hit harder than any other age group, with 75 percent struggling.” When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a survey to young adults concerning mental health, one in four teens said they had experienced suicidal thoughts in the past thirty days.

The rise in national suicide rates alone is extremely alarming. The Washington Post reported that in “Oregon’s Columbia County, the number of suicides by summer had already surpassed last year’s total.” By January 5th 2021, there had already been approximately 14,281 suicides worldwide in 2021; that is almost 2,856 a day.

Overall, teens are struggling with more mental health issues than ever before, yet some students don’t feel that there has been enough of an increase in the support offered at Minnechaug. Sophomore Dakotah Pavoni (remote) and junior Ella Perry (hybrid) both confessed to me that they have yet to see their guidance counselor this year, despite the fact that this tumultuous year has made it more necessary to speak with a guidance counselor than ever before. 

If you are one of these students, the Guidance Departement wants to hear from you: Please contact your guidance counselor or an adjustment counselor. Guidance counselors and adjustment counselors are working overtime to reach students during the pandemic.

Some may argue that they have added in a weekly advisory to assist with student’s mental health and provide them with a safe place. However, not every student feels comfortable in their advisory nor do the advisory teachers necessarily have the tools or the time to truly identify if one of their students is struggling. 

When I talked to school psychologist Molly Cole as well as one of the school adjustment counselors, Eugenia Snell, they both informed me that they had increased the amount of advisories and the length of them in an attempt to help with these very issues, while also providing students with more chances to inform an adult at school if they’re having trouble.

They also informed me that if a student were to feel uncomfortable in their advisory, they could reach out to their advisor or another trusted teacher in order to try to help with the issue. 

In regards to the call for more mental health resources for the students at Minnechaug, Ms. Snell and Ms. Cole informed me that there is now a resources tab on the MRHS website that includes different resources for students and their families in regards to mental health as well as a “chill space” where students can go if they need help. 

Under the Counseling Center page on Chaug’s homepage, the “Chaug Chill Zone,” which you can link to by clicking on the previous name, there are different resources for families and students. Ms. Cole said it is like a self-help space where students can select different resources, tools and other education materials, as well as important phone numbers that students or families can call for help.

When talking with Ms. Cole and Ms. Snell I brought up the idea of having a club of a sort in order for students to be able to sign up with their friends and meet up in safe spaces, with a counselor present, in order to unwind and talk to their friends about what they are going through.

Many students have been struggling to connect with friends during this time and I felt that this may be a good opportunity for many students to have a safe place to talk to their friends without any other added pressures.

Both Ms. Cole and Ms. Snell agreed that this could be a very beneficial idea and that if enough students were interested in it, they would love to help organize this club.

Minnechaug should work to provide a space where students can feel safe and feel like they can speak freely about their problems without them being put down or pushed aside. I believe that this could help improve student’s mental health as well as their grades and even their social lives.

 If you need support please reach out to the Guidance Department, where you can speak with a guidance counselor or a school adjustment counselor.