Although students are nearing the end of the school year, schoolwork and tests are piling up, while the students are also living through an unprecedented global pandemic. St John’s College High School wants what is best for its students and Ms. Julie Mitchell the sophomore counselor, organized the Mental Health Assembly.
Ms. Mitchell said, “[They] know the winter months can be the hardest to get through and everyone is tired and in need of a break.”
Julie Barron, licensed clinical social worker, was invited to share a presentation about mental health and also answer anonymous questions from students. During Ms. Barron’s presentation, she focused on three main topics: how and why students have been affected by the past year, different ways to cope through the change in the world, and lastly a look to re-entry to normal life after the pandemic.
Ms. Barron started off her presentation with a simple science lesson to explain why students feel the way they do this year. She wanted to convey the idea that it is okay to feel what many are feeling and everyone’s feeling about the pandemic and school are valid. She explained that humans are designed to protect themselves when they detect a threat and when a threat is recognized, the fight-or-flight response becomes active. Difficulties with a different school year and the overall changes because of the pandemic are an example of a threat to humans and Barron explained that the fight-or-flight response releases hormones that in an excess amount can cause negative physical symptoms such as trouble breathing or stomach ache.
Next, Ms. Barron wanted to explain different strategies to cope with all the changes in the students lives. She explained three important strategies: expressing emotions, maintaining a good perspective, and simply taking care of her body, that have helped her throughout her life. First, she described that naming emotions is hugely beneficial to understand what a person is feeling in the moment and said, “It is a way we can experience a sense of control and determination.” Other ways she illustrated ways to express emotions was by talking to a trusted adult, using movement or music, or also writing feelings down. Ms. Barron then explained the importance of keeping a good perspective by always looking at the facts and using mindfulness, a type of meditation that focuses on what someone is feeling in the moment and happening around them. Looking at the facts of a situation is beneficial because it allows for a person to find even a small good idea or thing in a negative situation. Lastly, specifically focusing on different ways to cope, Ms. Barron explained that taking care of one’s body is extremely important.
Late in the presentation, Ms. Barron talked about what is coming in the future, specifically the ‘normal’ after COVID-19. She explained that going back will be an adjustment and taking care of one’s self will be extremely important as well as understanding everyone will be having mixed feelings about everything and students are not alone. Every student is unique and Ms. Barron was available for anonymous questions that were more specific for each student. Many questions were asked but she answered each very specifically so every student could feel they had gotten something specific about themselves out of her short presentation. Although the presentation could not solve everything, it was perfect for the students to learn about mental health and themselves.