Survival Mode

Therapy and Wellness Center have improved students’ health


Dhatrisri Tummala/BearWitness

Aresema Agdie, Staff Writer

Rose, a junior, suffers from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. 

She asked to remain anonymous for this story.

Before seeking help, she said that she found it very difficult to talk to anybody about her issues, having refused to ask for help because she was afraid of the possible negative reaction from her family, causing her to “dig a hole deeper” for herself.

“I had a lot of anxiety and panic attacks and didn’t know how to handle myself when having outbreaks,” Rose said. “I would just melt down into myself.”

After having thoughts about harming herself, she decided that she would talk to her parents about her issues, and she was placed into therapy before being admitted to a psychiatric ward. 

Rose said that her experience in the psychiatric ward taught her skills to control and respond to her emotions.

“I had girls around me that had the same problem, so we would be able to talk about it together,” she said.

Though Rose sought help and is receiving treatment, her story is among those of an increasing number of teens in the U.S. who are experiencing declining mental health. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention early this year reported that four in 10 high school students feel persistently sad, with one-third report feeling as though they experienced poor mental health. Of the students surveyed, one in five had serious thoughts of committing suicide, and one in 10 had attempted suicide.

Students interviewed say that stigmas around mental health continues to plague communities, which in turn makes teenagers reluctant to ask for help. But when they do, they learn coping mechanisms that will help them work through their problems.

In her experience and in Lily’s, another junior who experienced depression, reaching out to others for help has been instrumental in their journey toward improving their mental health.

In her time in the psychiatric ward, Rose attended multiple courses each day to learn how to manage herself and obtain skills that she could use when by herself. 

Rose utilizes the rubber band method, which has her snap a rubber band on her wrist to remind her of obsessive thoughts, along with cognitive behavior therarpy and dialectical behavior therapy.

Cognitive behavior teaches the patient to recognize when their thoughts are troublesome, and it allows them to use techniques that will help to redirect these thoughts, while dialectical behavior helps patients find ways to be safe, accept themselves and manage emotions.

“There would be counselors around me all the time” Rose said. “I could talk to them and they would help me with my breakdowns.”


Distant from distance learning

Lily, another junior who also chose to remain anonymous, said that she always an anxious child, but struggled more after the COVID-19 lockdown. Distance learning was not working for her and she stopped doing her schoolwork. 

After a while, her parents noticed her grades significantly dropping and found out about her struggles.

“I just worried about everything that could go wrong,” she said. “I thought I was weird for it,” said Lily. “Around COVID, I kind of had a whole breakdown from the pandemic and online school. And so I had an entire meltdown and stopped doing all work.”

Life before therapy for Lily was a daily struggle. She did not know how to manage her anxiety and balance her school work, so she often pushed it to the back of her mind, which she says “was not that effective” in helping her anxiety. 

“Before seeing a therapist, I was just always telling myself I was crazy because I worried about everything,” Lily said. “It would consume all my thoughts all the time, to the point where I got super anxious.”

Lily says that her therapist helped her to “live less inside her head” and make her realize that she could find a way to respond to her anxiety, rather than react to it. She said that therapy helped her the help that she needed. 


Getting help

Both Rose and Lily advise students to seek help with whatever they are struggling with, either through the Wellness Center, a therapist, or online therapeutic/meditation resources.

Branham’s Wellness Specialist Monica Hylbert believes that people refuse to reach out for help often because of a fear of the first, financial, or stigma issues. 

Hylbert said that the Wellness Center as a free resource for kids struggling and encourages students to promote the use of the Wellness Center.

As word spreads, more can get the help that they need.

“Today was one of those aha! days, where a student was struggling in class and they went to the restroom and somebody in the restroom saw that they were struggling and said ‘Please go to the Wellness Center, they can support you,’ and that student came in and got the help they needed,” said Hylbert. 

Hylbert also knows that seeking private mental health help, such as a therapist, can be quite expensive, especially in the Bay Area. The Wellness Center and online resources, such as the Calm app and CASSY counseling, are free and a good resource.

“Everyone is struggling with something that may not surface or is underneath the skin, but it’s there,” said Hylbert. “I am a firm believer that we can do hard things, and the hardest thing is to take that first step to talk to somebody who’s knowledgeable and non judgmental, with unconditional positive regard. And that’s who all of us are in the Wellness Center.”