All students have their own personal struggles. Some might do well in school but are often
bullied by their peers. Others might struggle academically, due to a learning disability, an
unstable home life, or other factors. Some are dealing with mental health conditions that
require extra support.
Regardless of their different challenges, all students need mental health support to some
degree. The pressures of being a high school student today are immense, and many kids are
pushing themselves to the limit in order to keep up in school.
As a counselor, you can help support students as they navigate life’s challenges, whether that’s coping with the loss of a parent or simply trying to get into their first-choice college.
Maintaining good mental health and well-being is difficult for many young people, and it’s
important to provide them with the resources they need to feel supported.
Understanding the Mental Health Needs of High School Students
Mental health overall has been worsening among young people. In 2021, 29% of adolescents
had poor mental health, and 22% considered committing suicide. Students reported a range of mental health problems, but the most common issues were anxiety, depression, and stress.
Certain groups of students are also more likely to experience poor mental health, due to
external factors. Students in the LGBTIQA+ community, for example, often experience these
types of mental health problems due to a lack of familial support, bullying, and other social
problems. Students in racial and ethnic minorities are also more likely to experience poor
mental health, due to the behavior of their peers.
It’s important for teachers and school counselors to understand the signs of mental distress in students. Social withdrawal, changes in behavior, and declining academic performance are just some of the indications that a student might be struggling with their mental health.
The Role of High School Counselors in Mental Health
As a counselor, you do your best to support student mental health and to talk through challenges with the students who reach out to you. However, there aren’t enough hours in the day and some students might also need additional support that is beyond your knowledge and expertise.
With that in mind, one of your most important roles is to assess what the student might need and help them to connect with those resources. Sometimes, that might mean working with school administrators, teachers, parents, and even resources outside of the school.
Staying up-to-date in terms of your knowledge and current best practices for counseling is
critical. This will help you refer your students to the resources that will be most helpful for them and their individual needs.
Accessible Mental Health Resources
In addition to in-house counseling and other school-based resources, you can connect students with accessible mental health resources available in the community. Making sure that students have numbers for crisis helplines is an important step, but you should also make contact with local resources, such as community mental health centers.
Identify support groups, local nonprofits, and online mental health platforms that students can use as additional sources of support. Depending on their situation, different formats or types of support can be helpful, so be sure to provide different options.
You might also need to provide these kinds of resources to students’ families when it’s appropriate. Parents often don’t know what to do when their child is struggling with mental health problems, and you can help by pointing them in the right direction!
Self-Help Strategies for High School Students
Another way to help students with their mental health is to provide them with options for
healthy coping. Teaching students stress management techniques such as grounding and
breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation, can help them cope with life’s challenges and maintain their mental health even during tough times.
You can also help them develop skills to cope with academic pressures. Help them learn time management techniques, study skills, and more. These strategies can help students reduce stress and maintain their academic performance when they are dealing with life’s challenges. Also, remind them to seek help when they need it!
Promoting Mental Health Awareness in Your High School
Students don’t always know that they need help and support for their mental health. They
might also feel uncertain or scared about bringing their problems to the counseling office. One way to help with these problems is to promote mental health awareness in your school.
Awareness campaigns, workshops, and seminars on mental health can accomplish two goals. First, they help to normalize seeking help and build an understanding that many people experience these kinds of issues. They also give students basic mental health knowledge that can help them in their own well-being journey.
A Counselor’s Role: Communication and Building Trust
Above all, students need to feel safe when they walk into their counselor’s office. They need to know that you respect them and their privacy. Providing open and non-judgmental communication helps to build trust and allows counselors to better support students in building and maintaining their mental health and well-being.
Being a counselor isn’t always easy. However, when you’re able to provide resources that allow students to thrive, you are truly making a positive difference in the world.