The Role School Plays in Mental Health

Dr. Jessica Huber, the Student Assistance Program Counselor, helps students with mental illnesses balance their school lives with caring for their mental health. (Photo courtesy of Keeli Johnson)

Over the years the number of teens with depression or anxiety disorders have increased. This is a huge problem because people with mental illnesses are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, engage in destructive behavior and have decreased productivity in school, especially if they don’t get treatment.

Dr. Jessica Huber, the Student Assistance Program Counselor at Leesville, shared how the school tries to accommodate students who are dealing with mental disorders.

The treatment needed can vary “depend[ing] on what it is… because someone who has anxiety over depression, you’re going to see symptoms are manifesting themselves differently,” Dr. Huber explains. The help a student needs also depends on if they’re in active treatment or not. “If they do have therapy in place and if they do have medication in place then it will affect things differently, as well as then individually it will make a difference depending on the person too,” said Dr. Huber. Each case is different because of the multitude of factors that affect the situation like environment and personality.

A problem for a lot of these students is a noticeable increase in time outside of the classroom, particularly when looking at anxiety. “Sometimes [they need] to just be away from the classroom, so we’ll have some students who will sometimes come down here because they’re either having a panic attack or just some things have happened that triggered their anxiety, and they just need a quiet place or they need to talk and process through this,” she said.

“Keeping up with school work could be an issue… especially when you look at anxiety. Sometimes you’re falling behind on your schoolwork because you’re stressed out from a lot of things, but then the falling behind in turn causes more stress and more anxiety. That is what tends to be the cyclical response to it and it feeds on that, so your brain then just focuses on the stress instead of some constructive ways of trying to stay on top of it,” Dr. Huber said.

The school does offer permanent passes to students. They allow students who have anxiety and such to be able to “have the option to come down here and process with us and talk or sometimes they might need some quiet space,” said Dr. Huber.

“Each student is different in how they respond to what’s going on, and it might be the same student who responds differently depending on the situation. One time they might need to process through it, another time they might need some quiet time first before they can process through it.”

The school also works with outside agencies to coordinate services for students. For instance, if a student does not have access to services like a therapy, the school helps in locating services for them. The administrators communicate with families to show them options that are available to them and connect them to these services.

The school also communicates with teachers with the student’s permission so they can know that they need to help them out in class. “We won’t go into details because that’s private information, but just saying… that they’re going through some things right now… so that way teachers will know that they should try to help them out in the classroom too,” said Dr. Huber.

Mental health awareness has become an integral part of a school’s function. A lot of schools have added in programs to educate students, teachers, and administrators to the importance of caring for students’ mental health. The goal of the school offering these resources is to give kids an environment where they can feel comfortable and where they can learn how to properly take care of their mental health. By giving students the help they need and combating the stigmatism around mental health, schools give young people a way to improve themselves for the future.

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