Supporting Student Mental Health - Expert Advice from Association House Staff
Now that school is back in session, student mental health is a top priority for families across the country. Between school stressors, mental healthcare barriers and a global pandemic, student mental health is a cause for major concern. Association House staff shared their advice on supporting student mental health for the upcoming school year.
Claudia Loza, School Based Counselor, and Tanya Wade, Clinical Director, led a virtual discussion called “How’s About: Student Mental Health in Schools.” Both of these Association House staff members have been crucial in implementing a school-based counseling grant across three schools here in Chicago, including Association House’s very own high school. These schools serve predominantly black and brown students who need extra support that traditional high schools don’t provide.
“Our youth are often steering a boat without a paddle,” Claudia explains.
As part of the school-based counseling initiative, counselors support students’ social and emotional development. In addition, counseling provides students with the education and awareness to destigmatize conversations around trauma, mental health, and wellness.
“Essentially, we facilitate an ecosystem of care that builds community, creates brave spaces, and models healing,” Claudia says.
Another crucial part of school-based counseling is relationship building with staff, teachers, students, and caregivers. These relationships are critical to allow students to become more comfortable, and ultimately switch gears from survival to healing.
The conversation continued in a virtual event hosted by WBEZ titled, “Student Mental Health in Chicago Schools.” A panel of local mental health experts, including Association House’s Community Health Supervisor, Myra Rodriguez, answered questions from Chicago parents about student mental health.
The panelists discussed several topics ranging from identifying mental health issues to cultural stigmas surrounding mental health. Myra emphasized healthy, nonjudgmental communication between parents and their children as the first step to tackling youth mental health. Myra highlighted the importance of having the knowledge and language to understand mental health. She recommended taking a Mental Health First Aid Training. This is a free resource offered at Association House to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness.
“When we’re talking about mental health disorders in young people, you want to tackle things early. You don’t want to wait for years to go by and then you’re trying to figure out things later into teenage years or adulthood…Families need to walk away understanding that recovery is possible,” Myra states.
Mental health plays a significant role in a student’s happiness, health, and success during the school year. Association House advocates and provides services for mental health in the community. By taking advantage of these mental health resources, anyone can be an advocate for mental health whether that is for loved ones or beyond.