SM combats mental illness stigma

    This school year, San Marin administration hired a special education psychologist and has begun promoting efforts to better educate students on mental health. 

     Mental health has always been a concern, but after a year that was filled with loss, the need for support is greater than ever. Counselor Caroline Hoj explained how the past years loss had and continues to have an affect on everyone’s emotional and mental health.

“Last year, San Marin experienced a lot of loss,” Hoj said. “We lost a teacher, one of our students, Ben [DeFilippis], and collectively, I think we were all dealing with that on some level.”

In order to better support the growing need for mental and emotional help, Hoj and a Bay Area Community Resource (BACR) therapist plan on giving the 10th through 12th grade English classes mental health presentations.  According to Hoj, the purpose of these presentations is to help students better understand mental health and the resources available to them, as well as making the topic of mental health less of a stigma
in the school community.

Recent studies recording the trend of depression and anxiety throughout teens show a sharp increase.  According to the Washington Post, the number of of teens experiencing symptoms of depression increased by 33 percent between 2010 and 2015.  The number of youth diagnosed with anxiety increased by 20 percent between 2007 and 2012.

“Typically the concerns I hear the most are related to anxiety and often combined with depression,”  San Marin’s Special Education psychologist Elizabeth Bartling said.

Bartling was hired this year and works on a variety of tasks involving special education students. Some of her responsibilities include administering assessments,determining eligibility for special education services and counseling students.

Many factors contributed to the dramatic increase of anxiety in adolescents,
the most discussed being technology and social media.

On campus, one of the greater stresses students is homework. A Stanford study found that 56 percent of students regarded homework as a primary stressor.  Students participating in this study also experienced health concerns such as sleep deprivation as  a result of large amounts of time spent on homework.

“In most of my classes, I don’t think homework helps me at all.  It makes me stressed and it can be really hard to focus when I’m not in the right mindset,”  sophomore Lauren Houlahan said.  Houlahan is enrolled in two AP classes this school year.

Another student who has been diagnosed with anxiety opened up about her
thoughts on homework.

“My anxiety comes from needing a plan, and homework stress screws that
up,” she said.  “It’s the most overwhelming feeling.”

For San Marin students, the places to receive help are the counseling offices
where school counselors and a BACR therapist are found.  Bartling deals with special
education students in her office in the library, but is available for everyone.

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