Students have almost made it. The first school year of distance learning is coming to a close. But as the isolation of 2021 continues to take its toll on mental health, therapeutic practices remain crucial.
As the summer draws near, Carlmont students are continually determined to secure a support system for one another.
For the past month, Carlmont students Ivy Zhou and Ian Chen have run a mental health resource program with San Carlos Youth Center and OneLife Counseling Center.
“The pandemic and distance learning are what mostly inspired me to join this project,” Zhou said. “Because of the pandemic and distance learning, people aren’t able to socialize as much anymore, which has negatively affected a lot of people’s mental health, so I wanted to join this project and try to help people with their mental health.”
The loneliness of quarantine and distance learning has caused additional stress for students, but these hardships have also increased efforts for students to remain in a tight community while isolated.
“Especially during the pandemic, I think most students are really stressed out by online school and not being able to see their friends,” said Carlmont sophomore Bishista Paul. “I think having a strong support system of friends and family as well as ways to healthily cope with their problems is very important right now for students.”
A national poll conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine found that 46% of parents reported a decline in their teen’s mental health condition since the initial lockdown in March 2020. The poll surveyed 977 parents with teenage children aged 13 to 17.
“Teenage years are filled with physical, emotional, and cognitive changes. There are also hormonal shifts, more independence, and responsibility, and peer challenges,” said Brittany LeMonda, Ph.D., senior neuropsychologist in an interview with Healthline magazine in March 2021. “It is therefore not surprising that teens have been more susceptible to declines in psychological health over the last year.”
“[COVID-19) has been very isolating, I think, especially for teens, and especially if you don’t have your driver’s license. I work with a lot of 14-15-year-olds who are stuck at home,” said Caitlin Matoso, the San Carlos Youth Advisory Board advisor.
Matoso has overseen the student-led mental health program since Youth Advisory Board members proposed it.
“For me, I really hope that once it is safe, I want to try and offer as many programs as possible…our Youth Center is such a great facility,” Matoso said. “Being able to have in-person things where kids can socialize, where they can be kids, where they can play, is going to be really important moving forward.”
The program is led by the San Carlos-based therapy services center OneLife Counseling. OneLife provides professional counselors trained in various fundamental topics such as basic resources, how to manage personal mental health, and how to help a friend.
“OneLife Counseling Center is located in San Carlos; they offer a variety of programs from offering groceries to those in need,” Matoso said. “They do diaper drives for mothers, but they also have counseling services; they do lots of different types of counseling. I know they do art therapy and dance therapy. They work with all ages from elementary to seniors, and they have a lot of different offerings, and they also do free programs as well.”
The program itself offers a multitude of group support options and advocates for individual therapeutic practices so teens can learn to engage in healthy coping mechanisms.
“Workshops will be held to teach people about mental health and how to cope with it, and we are also working on making activity kits,” Zhou said. “I hope the workshops can make it easier for students with mental health issues to find help and for students to know how to help other people who are going through these issues as well. Also, I hope the activity kits can help people take their minds off of what is making them stressed and worried and be able to help them relax and have fun.”
The San Carlos Youth Advisory Board emphasizes the importance of asking for help. They advocate the Youth Center as a safe space, open to all students looking for solace. During periods of separation, it becomes more important than ever to grow tight community bonds and take care of one another. San Carlos students are not shying away from delivering.
“If someone would like to come to our workshops, they can sign up at the city of San Carlos website,” Zhou said. “To those who are struggling with their mental health and having trouble asking for help, I would like to say that you are not alone and there is always a way out, so don’t worry too much about what you are going through right now and keep looking forward!”