Changes to Solon High School’s mental health care

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New Directions logo

Jax Kim, Contributing Writer

Mental health is something that affects each and every one of us. How we handle it can impact others. The mental health culture within Solon High School (SHS) is one that has been improving in recent years but still has a long way to go.

Junior at Solon High School Oshin Samuels spoke about her experience with the attitude towards mental health at SHS.

“For a lot of the students, I think it’s like an accepted fact that mental health isn’t something you really get to have while getting good grades in Solon,” Samuels said.

According to Samuels, the people students are friends with can also determine how they think about mental health.

“Depending on, like, what friend group you’re in, it’s more acceptable to, like, prioritize your mental health versus not,” she said. “But yeah. The mental health culture is really focused on grades which is why I think, like, problems aren’t really talked about.”

This year, in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been  extra steps taken to help students’ mental health, the main one being that the middle school and high school have been in contact with each other so that the guidance counselors know which incoming freshmen are in need of extra social and emotional support.

Samuels has noticed that people’s mental health is worse this year.

“From what I’ve seen, people’s mental health is worse this year because…there’s still a lack of structure, but it’s in a weird place where it’s like no one knows what’s happening and, like, everyone’s struggling more with assignments because it’s not in-person, and it’s a whole new method of learning,” Samuels said.

However, the counselors have anticipated and prepared for the challenges that this year will bring. Ann Trocchio, the head of the guidance department at SHS, spoke about what she anticipates will be a challenge. 

“The challenges that we will be facing are probably similar to others in education during COVID-19,” Trocchio said. “How do we stay connected with our students?…How do we communicate the resources that we have available to all students?”

Principal Erin Short also spoke about some of the changes the school has made over the summer.

“We’ve created these blocks of times every day, through, you know, various times throughout the week … where kids then can sign up and then you could just drop in and say, ‘Hey Ms. Short, I just kind of need to talk to somebody’ and then we’re just going to, you know, talk,” Short said. Short goes on to add that Solon has partnered with New Directions, a facility that treats teens for anything from anxiety and depression, to drugs and alcohol.

Jodie Lurie, the school social worker, gave more information on New Directions. 

“Someone from New Directions, actually a staff person, is now a school based provider for us on Wednesdays,” Lurie said. 

Previously, Lurie had been unavailable on Wednesdays. The addition of a new staff member would help students to find support even if Lurie isn’t available. Additionally, Lurie has been working with the staff member to develop a group to teach students coping skills for anxiety and other mental health issues.

“We all have been working really closely with her, but her and I are going to be leading a group called I am Calm, I am in Control and…at the moment it’s an 8 week once-a-week group that we’re going to continuously offer to students throughout the school year, hopefully, really as a prevention and education, like how do we deal with…anxiety, what are those strategies.”

Short also goes on to say that the staff will be working to rely on the students more often.

“I think that we need to listen to our kids more because you guys have a ton of answers and we don’t always have the answers and we need to be willing to say, ‘Yeah, we don’t have the answer,” Short said. “So help us work through this’ and I think the more we do that, the better.” 

This year poses many challenges. We are living through a pandemic and a social revolution. These have a serious impact on mental health.

“We [the guidance office] are available for that support and…I don’t want ever someone to think like, ‘Is this big enough’…we are here so that is the message and you know if it’s a bad day and someone needs to talk, we are here to listen,” Lurie said.

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