Taking Care of Ourselves

New Club Focuses On Mental Health

Seniors+Piper+Vu%2C+Sydney+Fuller%2C+and+Hemani+Goje+give+a+presentation+in+the+first+meeting+of+the+Mental+Health+Club+on+Oct.+13.+The+three+Mental+Health+Club+officers+explained+what+the+clubs+goals+and+activities+were+before+letting+the+clubs+members+speak+to+each+other+in+a+fulfillment+of+their+key+promise+to+let+students+talk+and+vent++about+their+lives.+We+want+to+spread+the+word+that+you+are+allowed+to+vent+your+frustrations%2C+have+good+days%2C+bad+days%2C+and+most+importantly+know+how+to+deal+with+your+psychological+distress%2C+Goje+said.+We+all+come+from+different+struggles+and+have+different+perspectives.+So%2C+we+wanted+to+respect+the+different+perspectives+and+create+ways+to+cope.

Photo by Jaden Kolenbrander

Seniors Piper Vu, Sydney Fuller, and Hemani Goje give a presentation in the first meeting of the Mental Health Club on Oct. 13. The three Mental Health Club officers explained what the club’s goals and activities were before letting the club’s members speak to each other in a fulfillment of their key promise to let students talk and vent about their lives. “We want to spread the word that you are allowed to vent your frustrations, have good days, bad days, and most importantly know how to deal with your psychological distress,” Goje said. “We all come from different struggles and have different perspectives. So, we wanted to respect the different perspectives and create ways to cope.”

Jaden Kolenbrander, Reporter

Mental health is becoming an increasingly important topic for teenagers to confront: depression rates rose 63 percent among adolescents between 2013 and 2018, and the COVID-19 pandemic only worsened the issue as pandemic-related lifestyle issues brought their routine social interactions and future plans to a screeching halt. To combat this, seniors Hemani Goje, Sydney Fuller, and Piper Vu have started the Mental Health Club to give students the support they need. 

As students begin the year back from virtual learning and social distancing measures, they are likely to face the academic, social, and psychological challenges of learning in an in-person classroom environment instead of on a screen. According to NPR, uncertainty about the future school year and the prospect of adapting back to in-person school, especially given how teenagers fell behind on their schoolwork during the pandemic, is contributing to the ongoing rise of mental health emergency visits among ages 12 – 17. Mental Health Club aims to help students cope with their challenging situations by offering a support group where they receive advice from others who are experiencing similar struggles. 

“As we’ve matured through high school and learned how to cope with our struggles, we wanted to offer the resources that we found helpful to other high schoolers who have the same issues and give them a space where they feel supported in a way that they won’t get elsewhere,” Fuller said. “Our goals with this club are to give students the assistance they need to manage their mental health and to prevent any stress they may feel in the first place.”

Goje, who was herself struggling with the academic pressure of trying to focus on her grades during her important junior year, said she started the club in order to spread awareness of mental health around the school amid the various struggles that students, including Goje, would be going through.

As a senior, I wished to mitigate the lows I’ve had and know others have experienced,” Goje said. “The anxiety caused by grades, ranks and the overload of school, in general, made my mental health deteriorate. I don’t want that for other students at CPHS. I want to spread the word that you are allowed to vent your frustrations, have good days and bad days and most importantly know how to deal with your psychological distress. We all come from different struggles and have different perspectives. So, we wanted to respect those different perspectives and create ways to cope.” 

Two main benefits this club offers for members are allowing students a space to vent and helping them with strategies members have picked up along their own mental health journey. Venting may look like a student telling other members about their week, especially if there were difficult periods they endured through that took a toll on their psychological well-being, while methods taken from another student’s insight into their problems or from various therapeutic treatment sources are intended to alleviate stress and equip students with the necessary tools to face their difficult moments head-on. 

“Members are allowed to share things they might feel uncomfortable sharing elsewhere,” Fuller said. “Me and the other seniors who founded this club also have a collection of techniques we’ve built throughout the years by working through our problems or taking them from the previous therapies we’ve been in, such as cognitive reframing or breathing exercises, that serve to aid the students as coping mechanisms.”

The direct implementation of these therapeutic techniques was seen in the Mental Health Club’s first meeting on Oct. 13, where a portion was dedicated to simply chatting between tablemates about each other’s life, establishing the club’s role as a place to slow down and reflect on mental health with others, a safe space from the stressors that school may present. This was further cemented with the next activity, a five-minute Peloton meditation session where members were free to collect their own thoughts amid a background of calm ambient noise. According to Junior Nicholas Doluisio, who has suffered from social anxiety and depression in the past few years, these activities were helpful in diminishing his worries.

“Meditating and getting to talk to people about their day were the little things that went a long way in regards to mental health,” Doluisio said. “Mental health, especially as a junior, is something that I want others to take more seriously, as the academic pressure and the anxiety about your future makes it important to have a space where you can talk about those kinds of issues and vent everything out. My role as a drum major in the school band requires a lot of social skills, and although I’ve improved on my fear about making friends and reaching out to people, the Mental Health Club will definitely help me even more as we progress through the year.”

In the future, the club will offer more activities that help members open up to other forms of self-expression, such as painting and a show-and-tell portion where students may bring an item that helped them cope with any worries they have faced in the past. By opening up, members will feel safer in a space where they are free to communicate their feelings.

“Our activities will help distract students from stress and give them a break from school,” Vu said. “By talking about mental issues, we hope it’ll allow students to feel less afraid of their mental health issues and understand that what they are going through is normal.”

The club’s sponsor, AP English III teacher Kristin Burke, said she is just as familiar with the mental health struggles a student might be experiencing, witnessing her classes scramble to study and get their work in on time during online school. Burke hopes that current interest in the Mental Health Club indicates a wider awareness of mental health and increased demand from students to have those resources available.

“The room was full of students who wanted to have that support and not feel isolated, and it would only be beneficial for that sort of interest in the club to perpetuate,” Burke said. “The stigma surrounding mental health these days is much better than it used to be, but there is still a lack of discussion on topics like depression and it’s frustrating that students have to feel alone when they endure mental health issues. It’s important that students have a space to discuss this without feeling like anyone is judging them.”