Counselors share many resources for those needing assistance for suicide prevention, mental health

According to a survey by the CDC 37 percent of teens experienced mental health struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic; furthermore, when the survey was conducted in 2021, 44 percent of teens reported experiencing mental health issues in the past 12 months. Student mental health is a silent struggle balancing school, friends and well-being that leaves many people feeling alone.

However, you are not alone and students and school administration alike are trying to bring mental health out of the dark and shine a light on giving support to teens struggling. Cedar Falls high school has resources available to students looking to find help.

“Students can talk to their counselor, and the counselor can do check-ins, mindfulness exercises and help with reframing your thinking, and then if you need more help, we can do a referral for our school mental health counselors if they have openings, and if a student doesn’t want to do it at school, we can refer to outside mental health counselors,” school counselor Susan Langan said.

“A student having a bad day can come to the counselor office to vent and collect themselves so they can handle the day ahead,” school counselor Erin Gardner said.

The school has several extracurricular activities that can support students, Gardner said. ”I would say getting involved in any club is great for mental health. We also have an off-shoot of the active minds chapter at UNI. Active minds hasn’t been very active this year, but as we get further in the school year, keep an eye out for information on it, and groups that focus on minority groups can help you find other people to relate to such as SAGA for LGBT+ students and SiHLE for Black female students, but any club that you find fun and helps you socialize can help your mental health.”

Langan said, “We also have a grief group occasionally if there are a lot of people struggling with the loss of a loved one.”

These groups are run by counselors and meet at what times are the most convenient for the group. Students who think the school would benefit from a grief group this semester can go to the counselor’s office to talk to them about bringing it back.

A struggle of many students facing trauma and mental disorders is depending on family for support. Gardner said these vulnerable discussions can be hard to initiate. “Some students are close with their family, which makes it easier to talk about your feelings. If you’re not comfortable, you could write a letter or text first if you feel more confident in writing, and set a time to talk more about it later.”

Langan said, “If parents have experience with mental health it’s usually easier to get support, but if they have experience sharing some articles on how student mental health has been affected by covid with the increase in anxiety and depression. The counselors can also talk to them for you, or you can have a supportive family member help you talk to unsupportive family members. You could even watch a TV show together about mental health and talk about how you feel like the characters do. Sometimes that can open the doors to talking about mental health.”

“It’s a hard thing for a lot of people to do,” school counselor Danae Dieken said. “I look at it as it’s not different from saying ‘I have a stomach ache for a week. I’m not feeling good. Can we go to the doctor?’ Saying that you aren’t feeling well mentally should result in your family taking you to the necessary people. It’s essential to replace the stigma of ‘it’s embarrassing to talk about mental health’ and normalize it to be as normal as treating physical conditions.”

Counselors stressed mental health is more than getting professional help. It’s also important to  develop the skills to cope within the moment and day to day. “Self help is really essential and requires giving yourself a break and knowing yourself. Time management is important so you can time things that can help you relax. Sometimes we get so bogged down with what we have to do that we forget to make time for what we want to do. Practicing coping skills like mindfulness, breathing, visualization, being able to do those things in the moment when you’re having a problem is really important,” Dieken said.

Langan said, “There are some free apps like Calm that give you breathing exercises, and Headspace. There are paid options, but it’s good enough free. It gives you different things for daily meditation and mindfulness. You can Google which ones are better for teens or figure out what’s good for you. Another thing I practice with students a lot. When you do mindfulness, you’re supposed to have an anchor. I usually use a tiny plastic elephant as an anchor. If I’m in a meeting and getting really anxious and I stop and think of my elephant, it’s a trigger to make me do some breathing or tensing and relaxing. I also have calming strips to put on your computer, which is something physical to ground you and remind you to relax.”


Gardner says “Reflect on your feelings, talk to others and know it’s OK to not be OK.”


988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

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