Students turn to school support systems during pandemic

Elijah Rodriguez, Reporter

Nadia Rodriguez scrolling through an article on Psychology Today about self-help on a laptop. (Elijah Rodriguez)

The effects of this pandemic remain prominent as our students continue to be in isolation from one another, which can be damaging to the developing mind; many students are turning to our guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists for help.

According to the World Health Organization, mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years. Almost half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age. Depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents globally but often left undetected and untreated. As a result, suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having another disorder is most common in children with depression: about 3 in 4 children aged 3-17 years with depression also have anxiety (73.8%), and almost 1 in 2 have behavior problems (47.2%). With this being said, in a poll of 54 students, only 6 said they trusted built-in support systems in Morton East to go to them with their problems.

“Our counselors are equipped to help students talk and reason through difficult challenges in their lives and to better cope with difficult situations,” school psychologist Michael Ryva said.

Being the first line of defense, it is easy to understand why some students don’t trust Morton East.  The idea of sharing personal information with a school staff member may scare students, but the certified staff has years of training.  And, there are other accessible support systems in place in the Cicero community, one being Youth Crossroads.

“Next, we have built-in supports through our Youth Crossroads program that can offer more intensive support 1 on 1 and group support to students with more chronic or intensive needs. Youth Crossroads typically pairs students with a counselor or social worker that can work with them during the school day,” school psychologist Michael Ryva said.

Although being in Morton East, Youth Crossroads is not necessarily affiliated with Morton, which may bring students a sense of security from the sense of separation. They have multiple support groups that cater to transgender students to students who are coping with the loss of a loved one. Unfortunately, most students are not aware, possibly scared, to actually use Youth Crossroads as a resource, although students who do use it mutually agree that Youth Crossroads provides a safe and healing environment.

“Well, my Youth Crossroads experience was amazing and extremely helpful with people and help me get through my struggles and help me understand what kind of person I was, and the fact that they had a boys group which really helped me open up to other men and help them in their time of needs, ” a previous student Jacob Morales said.

Additionally, Morton East has one more resource accessible for students.

“Lastly, we have our student support team. This consists of social workers and school psychologists… We provide 1 on 1 social-emotional supports and we provide group-based social-emotional supports to students experiencing similar difficulties,” school psychologist Michael Ryva said.

Sometimes, students have mixed feelings towards social workers, but those who have received the proper help from them explain that their social worker went above and beyond.

“My previous social worker, Ms. Guzman, genuinely cared for me and wanted the best for me.  She helped me translate my coming out letter to my dad. She even offered to talk to him to help him understand,” student Isaiah Rodriguez said.

Overall, mental health could make or break a student’s success in their academics and more importantly their life, and there are some solid resources that students can rely on.  Morton East needs to provide an all-around safe environment for its students to thrive.