Mental Health is Health

Mental Health_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

I am at the ISACS Annual Conference and look forward to sharing more with you about the conference next week. In the meantime, I want to share with you some communication from our school counselor Terri White, who has just completed education on depression and suicide prevention for each grade level.

From the Counselor…

One of my goals as Director of Counseling Services on the Downtown Campus is to educate and raise awareness about mental health. Mental health is health. This is the message I am trying to teach to our students. Too often, there is a stigma associated with mental health, and adults, as well as students, ignore, or aren’t fully aware of important signs that indicate there may be a problem. Beyond that, we all should be taking steps every day to manage our stress. In my 12 years at St. Francis, I have noticed an increase in the number of students who are experiencing anxiety and depression, which coincides with national mental health trends.

Below is an excerpt from an October 11th, 2017 New York Times article, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”

Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services. In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent. Those numbers — combined with a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers over the last 10 years, with the highest rates occurring soon after they return to school each fall — come as little surprise to high school administrators across the country, who increasingly report a glut of anxious, overwhelmed students.

Last year, I began implementing a depression and suicide awareness program, “The Lighthouse Curriculum: Depression and Suicide Awareness for High School Students.” The program was developed by Erika’s Lighthouse: A Beacon of Hope for Adolescent Depression, which is a mental health education and advocacy organization. The program goals include raising awareness of depression and its symptoms, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and encouraging the utilization of support services if necessary. I recently finished teaching the curriculum to all students in grades 9-12. The student were taught the risk factors and warning signs of depression and suicide, how to help a friend, how to access resources, and daily considerations and actions to address their own mental health, including sleep, nutrition, exercise, and other coping skills. Parents, grandparents, and guardians can help support good mental health by modeling healthy behavior; talking with your adolescent about his/her sleep, exercise and eating habits; and encouraging students to ask for help when they need it. If you ever have a concern about your student and you think I could be helpful, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you are interested in more information on depression, suicide and other mental health issues, below are a few helpful websites:

Erika’s Lighthouse

National Institute of Mental Health

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Continuing the conversation, Wednesday, November 15th at 8:30 a.m. on the Downtown Campus. Dr. Kevin Chapman will be leading a parent discussion, presenting on stress and anxiety in adolescence. Dr. Chapman will be providing the latest information on this topic, as well as identifying emotion regulation strategies that can be helpful in managing daily stress and anxiety. Goshen and Downtown families are invited. Please contact Terri White, Director of Counseling Services, Downtown Campus, if you would like to attend. Coffee and breakfast food will be provided.