LBHS provides support for students struggling with mental health problems

Owen van Es, Reporter

In a community as beautiful and privileged as Laguna Beach, a high-schooler taking his or her own life seems like the last thing imaginable. But in a time when students feel increasing pressures as they relate to GPA, SAT scores and grades, suicide is a very serious problem. More and more, stress has been placed on teens to perform in the increasingly competitive academic setting. In order to help students with stress and mental health problems, therapists and mental health professionals are able to provide treatment. They may help by relaxing or encouraging students and allowing them to understand that school is not all that matters in life and that there are things to live for.         

Students are becoming more open to sharing their thoughts and feelings now that they know they have a support person and resource on campus. Also, I’ve noticed that stress levels have increased due to the pressure of grades, college, etc.,” said LBHS Student Support Specialist Alex Aronson.

With a readily available mental health specialist on campus, students can talk about how they are feeling, especially if they are feeling stressed and just need an emotional outlet. Aronson helps students and engages them by identifying and strengthening healthy coping skills, strong communication skills and positive thinking. She also can help connect students to any helpful outside resources that they may need.

“There is so much pressure on students to excel—from themselves, parents, teachers, the community, the media, etc. These high stakes moments gain an oversized importance in the mind,” said history teacher Kristin Cowles, who recently started the No Place for Hate Club on campus.

Worrying about letting someone down, disappointing another person or losing important opportunities lead to constant distractions for students and create more stress than there needs to be.  Cowles also believes that a way for students to cope with stress is with therapy animals, especially puppies. Although puppies might not be possible for students, schools should focus on alternative ways to provide support. Any activities that allow students to put academics and stress away could make a large difference.

Patrick Turner, a former student at Corona Del Mar High School, took his life on Jan. 27, 2018. Turner grew up in Newport Beach, California, the fourth richest city in the nation. CDM, his high school, ranks 71st out of 650 high schools in California, and 413th out of 22,000 high schools nationally. Students at Corona Del Mar are testing 30% higher than the state average in California in Math, English and Science.

In his suicide notes, Turner explained how he was expected to do too much from his school and that he couldn’t take it anymore. He also believed that his teachers were testing the class on materials they hadn’t or barely learned. Turner’s overall message to his school: Make changes.

“So much pressure is put on kids to do good, and a lot of kids make mistakes. One slip up makes a kid feel likes the smallest person in the world. You are looked at as a loser if you don’t go to college or if you get a certain GPA or test score… Nobody seems to understand, they only see people on the outside,” wrote Turner.

Students at LBHS are encouraged to trust in their school as a caring place that, in fact, aims to understand and protect everyone in the community.  If you or a friend is in need of support, reach out to Ms. Aronson, a teacher, your counselor, the school psychologist or any other trusting adult. You will very well find what countless peers before you have discovered after bravely reaching out: You are loved, and you will heal.