I hear it all too often, youth saying they have anxiety when what they really mean is that they are feeling anxious. If you listen to the news you would believe that our youth are in crisis . The data would suggest otherwise 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime . It’s true and needs to be addressed and has been for the past 20 or so years. The stats have not changed. What’s also true is that 4 out of every 5 Canadians don’t have a mental health disorder and it’s up to us to teach the difference between a disorder and everyday feelings that we all have. Some may need the assistance of a professional to understand the difference. Your School Counsellor is a good place to start. They are trained professionals who understand the difference and can assist in finding supports.
For the 1 in 5 youth that will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime we need to assist them in getting all the supports necessary. For the youth that are experiencing distress over a multitude of concerns we must also listen and support them , teaching them how to cope with life’s challenges and concerns. Supporting youth with their feelings helps us understand what steps to take next. Their feelings are important , so we must not dismiss them.
Words do matter and helping our youth become literate when it comes to mental health can have a positive impact. If you need resources and ideas on how to make that happen check out teenmentalhealth.org. You can also find more information on anxiety here and here.
If you are wondering whether a youth truly has an anxiety disorder, some waitful watching may be in order. Don’t be quick to jump to a diagnosis ( and a reminder that you must be qualified to do so ) even then waitful watching is a good idea.
Some questions to reflect on :
Frequency : How frequent are the anxious feelings? Once or more a day , once a week , once a year?
Duration: How long do the feelings last? A few minutes, hours , weeks , months?
Intensity: Does the youth avoid situations because they are too anxious to cope? Is the anxiety taking control of them instead of them controlling it? Are they having trouble coping with everyday life because of their anxiety?
Have they seen a medical doctor to rule out any other medical concerns?
As a counsellor the way you begin your day can impact you and others around you. So beginning your day by being good to yourself is a great way to start your day. Ease into your day if you can by getting to work a little early. Take time to listen to positive podcasts, nice music or just turn the radio off and be quiet on your drive to work. Whatever works for you.
Make sure you take time for lunch. Get out of your office and eat with colleagues or go for a walk, I can’t stress how important this is. This is essential for your self care, so just do it! After your crazy busy day and I know you had one, take time to just breathe and wrap up your day by listening to music while you write your notes and prepare for your next work day. I’m interested to know how do you start each day?
As School Counsellors and educators one of the biggest responsibilities we have is to keep our students safe .
How do we do that? Very carefully and with much thought and effort as well as an understanding of the research around what works best. Bruce Perry founder of child trauma academy states that active shooter training is not always done properly , the training that occurs in schools should focus on adults. He says, “if the educators and people who are responsible for children remain calm then the students will reflect that emotional state”. Read more about what he says here.
What can be done? The answers are complex and require teams of people to assist. That is where a Comprehensive School Counselling Plan comes in. School Counsellors are always looking at ways to make school better for students, putting the psychological health and safety of students as a priority. We need to get students the help they need long before a serious threat occurs. The answers are not easy , but those who have learned before us can teach us some things we may need to know. Take a look at these recommendations from the Sandy Hook advisory committee.
As stated in that report , “There is at least one place, other than a home, in which every person, whether a child or adult, should feel absolutely safe and secure from the threat of physical harm: school. ” I could not agree more. School Counsellors can take the lead along with staffs to make schools a safe place to be. Mental health literacy is essential for all students and staff members. Building relationships is one small step towards creating a community that focuses on what is important.
Working to ensure that we have a safe and caring school community is always on the mind of a professional school counsellor. Best practices should be reviewed and reflected upon each year based on individual school needs. School Counsellors are in a unique position to assist in preventative measures helping students to deal with stressors and social isolation. We also know it takes a team and we don’t have all the answers, but there are many things we can do and are doing already. We are but one of a community of people that make a difference. We as School Counsellors can help make our schools a safe place to be.
As a School Counsellor you have many roles to play and from personal experience I know sometimes we get caught up in all the daily things that need to get done . So just for today why not aim for improving the lives of your students and better yet why not look for ways to improve your own life. Amy Fast @fastcrayon says , “we don’t do what we do in schools to get good results/ data. We do what we do to improve the lives of humans. Good academic results are the byproduct. If we only aim for data, we may not succeed in improving lives. But , if we aim for improving lives the data will always follow“
First let me start with a few questions.
What are ways you feel hopeful that you can improve the lives of your students and instil hope?
How do you help those that are struggling academically, socially or emotionally?
How do you educate the mind and the heart?
How do help students love learning and life ?
How do you help students live positively as a good citizen in their community and in the world?
How do you build healthy meaningful relationships with students and help them to do the same?
How do you help students feel a sense of belonging?
How do you assist students in finding their purpose and passion?
How do you help students make better choices?
How do you create a spark in a child’s eye so that they can become the people they are meant to be?
How can you make a difference in the lives of the students you serve, academically, socially, emotionally , physically and spiritually?
How can you collaborate with others to improve the lives of students so that they know how much they matter and can be successful in school and in life?
Reflection makes us all better and in the end it not only helps us improve our own lives, but also the lives of those we work with. Let’s start with you and your worth and then let’s move on to students. How can you improve your own life? :
If you take good care of yourself you will be better able to assist students in improving their lives. Every day you as a School Counsellor reach out to help make students lives better. Keep doing the amazing work you do every day and keep on reflecting. As a Professional School Counsellor you can and do make an impact and a difference every day in oh so many ways.
I am grateful to work for a district that supports School Counsellors and School Counselling . Today I get the honour of presenting to my colleagues who make a difference every day. Thanks for all you do! You can find the link to my slide deck here.
Canva is an amazing tool for School Counsellors. You are often the one to help organizes special events, make posters that are relevant to School Counselling , share ideas etc. Canva can help you create all the resources you need.
Twitter is one of the best resources there is for School Counsellors . You can connect with and share resources with other School Counsellors worldwide. Access is immediate and you never know what great connections you can make that help you be better at what you do. You can follow the ATA of School Counsellors and the president of the Council @ehordyskiluong. Check out #scchat here .
Teacher Pay Teachers is an inexpensive wonderful resource for School Counsellors. I did not always support this resource as I felt educators needed to share freely, but now I understand what hard work goes into making these resources and really they are very inexpensive for the work being done. School Counsellors why reinvent the wheel when it is already invented? Check it out on TPT .
APPS: There are so many apps that can make a School Counsellors life easier. Here are just a few.
RESOURCES: There are so many great resources and people are the best resource so get connected and share share share. School Counsellor Online Professional Exchange is a resource that you won’t want to miss thanks @ecmmason for creating it! SCOPE
Blogging: There are so many fantastic School Counsellor Blogs. Each one is different ,but most have tips and resources you can use tomorrow. Creating your own blog can help other School Counsellors and students
The impact that social media has on kids is undeniable. A recent article in the New York Times highlights some of the more concerning issues.
I don’t think we need much convincing that social media has had an impact on all our lives and it is not going away anytime soon. I am a neophyte when it comes to social media, but in my work with children and their families over the past 30 years has allowed me a first hand insight into the world of children and their families.
What can we do as parents, counsellors and educators to mitigate the impact that social media is having on our young people? As in any situation where we are trying to teach children, we ourselves need to be the role model. We need to examine the message we send our kids when we are engaged in use of our own devices. What parameters do we have for ourselves when it comes to use of devices? Do we actually have discussions with our kids about amount of usage, times and places that are no go zones for adults and kids? Do we understand the safety issues and if not do we educate ourselves about these issues and discuss them with our children? Yes, with any privilege comes responsibility, both for us as the adult and for our children whom we must guide to be ethical digital citizens. Don’t let their media skills fool you! Although they appear to be very savvy in the area of technology, they do not have the life experience or a fully developed brain that allows them to project the outcome of what they may see as just having a little fun or wanting to fit in.
It really is hard for me to believe that I have retired from a career I not only felt passionate about, but loved deeply. Well, it wasn’t the career so much as the students I worked with that continued to make a difference for me.
School Counsellors really have a multifaceted role which can be exhilerating and exhausting. They do save lives every year. Unfortunately sometimes even though they do their best they are unable to prevent student trauma. Trauma does and will continue to occur in schools. I want to continue to support School Counsellors so that is why I will continue to co-moderate and help faciltate a School Counsellor chat #scchat
Erin , Erin HL and I would like to get at least 20 people who are willing to co-moderate at least one chat ! We will put a how to video together soon so that you will feel comfortable in leading a chat . You can always ask Erin, Erin HL or I questions at anytime. If you have any ideas for topics please let us know.
I am also interested in featuring you in a blog post . So if you are a School Counsellor and interested please let me know.