At the end of October, the student body completed a survey about student culture that covered everything from student morale to stress factors to overall mental health. From the results of that survey, McNicholas is now initiating new programs that resolve around mental health.
According to a second survey by The Milestone on Dec. 5, of which 141 students and faculty responded, 107 said that school was their greatest cause of stress, with relationships next at 16, home life with 8, other causes with 6, work with 4, and no one stated that social media was their greatest cause of stress. Of the 141 respondents, 29% said they had a diagnosed mental illness, and 86% said that they know someone with a diagnosed mental illness. These numbers align with the national findings of Live Science that found 1 in 5 teens, or 20%, in the U.S. suffer from a diagnosed mental illness.
“I think there is so much pressure and stimulation…and that’s why there’s likely a higher prevalence of anxiety and ADHD and depression in teens,” said Alaina Way, the Director of Counseling and College Readiness.
Since the school survey, McNick’s administration and counseling department has been working towards setting up new programs for students facing mental health issues. The first organization McNicholas has been looking toward is MindPeace, a Cincinnati-based organization that works closely with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, and several schools in the area to provide mental health care to children and teenagers. Currently they have provided therapists to Cincinnati Public Schools, Ursuline Academy, the Indian Hill School District, and many more. The plan is to set up a MindPeace therapist in the school with their own office to be an ongoing partner with students and faculty. This would provide a mental health service at McNicholas during school hours. “It has become clear to me, and others on the staff, that we need to find additional community resources that can be available to students,” Prinicpal Dave Mueller said.
The second program being considered is under the Grant Us Hope foundation. Grant Us Hope is another Cincinnati-based organization that sets up Hope Squads in schools, a school-based peer-to-peer suicide prevention program, which equips and empowers students to be the eyes and ears of a school. It teaches students to recognize the warning signs and reach out to other students in trouble. It is important to note that neither of these programs has been finalized, and students wouldn’t see changes until the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.
Even though the programs will not be finalized until next year, Way added, “If we are made aware by a student, teacher, or parent that someone is struggling with mental health issues we [the counselors] are able to meet with them individually and discuss some coping strategies depending on what they are dealing with. We also can refer to outside help if necessary.”