By Laney Cline
Earlier in October, the United States observed National Mental Health Awareness week, and the subject will be approached again for the upcoming recognition of World Kindness Day on November 13. Both student groups and staff at CHS have been eager to promote both the topics of kindness and mental health in a district-wide focus on personal and emotional well-being.
For many students here at Cherokee, mental health may seem like an issue for aging men and women stressed out with their 9-to-5 jobs, hitting final breaking points, and seeking professional help. But today, mental health is increasingly affecting the lives of kids and teens everywhere.
According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States in 2017, the second leading cause of death among teens of all races, sexes, and origins between the ages of 10-19 years of age was suicide, only trumped by accidental injuries. Suicide isn’t just something far away; over the past year, student suicides in Cherokee County have been on the rise too. But why is that statistic so high?
Mrs. Tuck is one of many school counselors here at CHS. Along with scheduling, transcript, and scholarship information, Mrs. Tuck also works with students to help them manage their emotions, work through challenges, and help them reach their goals.
Here’s what Mrs. Tuck had to say about the changes she’s seen in mental health among students over the past couple of years:
“Anxiety. Lots and lots of anxiety. There’s a lot of pressure on this generation, because everybody puts the best filters and all the stuff on Instagram and Facebook… they don’t even realize that, whoever posted that gorgeous picture probably took 50 to get the right angle.”
But according to Mrs. Tuck, it isn’t just social media and our peers that are causing this spike in anxiety. Academic pressure is on the rise as well. Nowadays, colleges are looking for high test scores, AP classes, community service, a job, and a slew of other accomplishments. Students are under immense stress trying to meet all these demanding qualifications.
With these big problems, both the CCSD and Cherokee have been making efforts to help combat all of these issues. Have you noticed the #CCSDCares signs in front of the North campus? They read positive messages like “Your mistakes DO NOT define you” and “You are worthy and important” to everyone that enters the campus. They are posted on campuses across Cherokee County–not just CHS.
Ms. Grubbs and Ms. Dale, administrative assistants in the North front office, even placed posters in the office’s staff bathroom with more encouraging words, like “Superwoman ain’t got nothin’ on you!” and “Just LOOK at that SMILE!” The increase of pressure and demands doesn’t stop with students, and encouragement to all goes a long way.
Cherokee counselors also offer more tailored help to struggling students. Every year, students take the Panorama survey, providing county officials with information about learning styles, time management, and other important data to help improve beneficial resources that can be made available for students.
Counselors can also start small groups for anxiety, study skills, etc to give students an environment to share struggles with others that they can relate to. But most importantly, the roles of a counselor are shifting, most prominently with the duties of testing moved to other departments, allowing counselors to focus more on student connections.
Even with all of this available help, it can be difficult for students to reach out for help. According to Mrs. Tuck, safety is always the priority. If you or someone you know is at risk of hurting themselves or others, call 911 and allow authorities to perform a safety check.
The county has also recently deployed a Safe Schools Alert system, allowing students and parents to make anonymous tips about unsafe situations. Mrs. Tuck even has the QR code and information for the Crisis Hotline and suicide prevention text line posted on paper towel holders in bathrooms all around the school.
Overall, the best thing that students can do to turn around this trend of sadness and hate in school culture is to spread kindness. Giving compliments and sharing a smile can truly turn someone’s day around.
Mrs. Tuck also stressed the importance of using social media to build people up, not tear people down.
“If you see something happening on Instagram or Snapchat or online, tell somebody so we can put a stop to it”, she cautioned.
Cherokee will continue efforts to make school a better place for all.
Mrs. Tuck speaks for the whole counseling staff when she says “I’m not here for Mr. Miller. I’m not here for Mrs. Spell, I’m always here for the student. And so they will always take precedence no matter how busy I am.”
About the writer:
Laney Cline is a freshman student at CHS and contributing writer through the CHS Newspaper club.