A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Student Life

Know when you need help

If you look around the halls at West Ottawa High School you’ll see students desperately writing  essays that are due at the end of the hour, students arguing about the latest gossip, and students trying to prepare themselves in any and every way for college. In society today there is so much pressure on teenagers, but they tend to keep all their feelings and anxieties buried down because they just don’t know where to turn.

   Just this year the high school hired two new mental wellness coaches: Danielle Barnes and Kristin Douma. They are both are committed to helping students with mental health, finding resources outside of school, and keeping West Ottawa a safe place. They truly are making a difference. 

   An anonymous West Ottawa student has been seeing the mental wellness coach for a month. She has been dealing with problems at home and has developed depression and anxiety. 

   Her friends persistently told her to reach out for help, but she simply didn’t know where to look. Eventually she was pushed to find someone, and that someone just so happened to be one of the coaches. 

   The coach provided her sources to help with her home situation, and gave her the necessary resources to find a therapist outside of school. The student still goes to see her at least once a week to check in and get extra help and motivation. 

   “If I hadn’t been pushed to go see the coaches, there’s a good chance that I would be dead right now.” This student waited until she absolutely needed help. She waited until the last possible second to reach out for help from an adult.

   Don’t wait until you’re so depressed that you physically can’t get yourself out of bed before seeing these coaches, don’t wait until anxiety clouds your vision, don’t wait until that test makes you so stressed that you fail it. Recognize when you need this help.

   “I’d rather students come see me from the very beginning, or when they first noticing signs rather than waiting,” Douma said. These coaches want to see you, they want to help you. They want to see a decline in depression and a rise in self confidence in you.

   “You can never have too many supportive adults,” Douma explains that many students don’t feel as though they are able to trust many adults. But the coaches encourage students to come in and realize that their office is a safe place.

   Anything that you choose to tell these coaches in that space is purely confidential, unless someone is harming themselves, or planning to harm others. These coaches will not go around telling all your friends your secrets, you can trust them. They are here to help and talk to you.

   Students, know your options. Sign up for an appointment, whether that be through email or through the Chromebook extension.  Reach out. Know when you’re not okay and need help. 

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