Don’t sit in Silence

Secondary school can be difficult and stressful for many students, and it can definitely affect their mental health and how they feel every day. That is why the student body of ISL has availability to counselors that can support their mental health issues whenever they need it – even if they need to talk about something that is related to their personal life rather than just school related issues. This topic is important to talk about since not many people acknowledge the fact that counselling is there to help us – the students. 

ISL’s principal support system is providing access to counselling, and this has proven to be very effective as more students avail of the opportunity and prefer not to shy away from help. The school made sure to create a safe space for students to express their feelings. This can be a time where students can feel overwhelmed or stressed, and can have a big impact on their mental health. Providing them with the counselling program helps them have a better attitude in school, and in general, shows an improvement in their mental health. It can benefit the student as it provides a space where students can open up, and will then clear their mind of this burden. 

The school counseling office is a private space which allows students to go to the counselors to express their emotions without other people being able to see them. There are two secondary school counselors and one counselor in primary so that every student has direct access to support. Outside the two counselors’ offices, there is a calming space with different fidget toys and activities to do when you need to calm down and take a mental break. It’s very quiet, and the atmosphere is very tranquil inside. The counselors treat their jobs very importantly as the students’ well-being is their priority. 

ISL has around 500 students enrolled in secondary, but only about 25% ever receive guidance. Why? Many students believe that going to a counselor is something people are judged for, and it is often found to be shameful. However, privacy is a basic need, yet having enough trust in someone to express to them how you are feeling is a difficult thing to do. Keeping the student safe is also important, and all information given is confidential, unless the situation is found to be more serious. Speaking of confidentiality, two of ISL’s counselors answered a few questions about the guidance they give, which helped us gain an understanding about the counselling program in ISL.

So why is counseling so important? According to two of ISL’s counselors, access to these kinds of services are very useful in a school environment. “Since we know that people struggle, we want to reach these students and don’t want to leave them alone, we want them to be heard, and we want to help them,” said Ms. Varga. She also stated that she understands that “Students face a multitude of issues when growing up – stress, real challenges, losses, transitions – and they deserve to have counselors to support them.” 

The things that the counselors have seen students struggle with most are, specifically, “Anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, feeling alone, being overwhelmed, feeling numb, not being seen or understood, time management, and loss”. Some of these struggles may arise when a student has recently transitioned from a different school, or if there have been arguments with loved ones or friends.

At ISL, students can seek help by sending an email and making an appointment. In some situations, teachers or friends of a student may bring attention to someone who they believe would benefit from chatting to the team. No situation is ever the same as every person has their own needs which are each dealt with differently. Some students may see a counselor just once, or have appointments regularly. If the situation is more serious, they will direct the student towards a therapist who specializes in their area of concern. 

The process of becoming a counselor also looks different for different people. For example, Ms. Hansen considers it more of a “path of self discovery” as she once worked as a secondary teacher and later realized that she enjoys inspiring and supporting students more. She said that, generally, “being a counselor uses my strengths to serve others”. 

The counselling program at ISL is treated as something that is very important and essential to students. The counsellors are not there to judge us, but to help and to support people whenever they’re having a tough time and are in need of someone to talk to. Do not be ashamed to express your feelings and emotions, because hiding them will only make it worse and it won’t benefit your mental health.   

If you feel you need support, don’t hesitate to go to the counselors, as they made sure to mention that their door is always open to whoever needs help, and the calming space is available to anyone at any time.