New Wellness Center ready to help students


Caption for picture: Maria Coyt , a SSW intern. consults with Lorena Sanchez about a curriculum to begin a coping skills therapeutic group. “We have groups available (i.e. grief/loss, coping skills, empowerment, etc.) and also able to provide individual counseling if needed,” Sanchez said.

After being isolated for over 16 months, many students struggled with their mental health. From working remotely to watching parents struggle with work or losing family members to Covid, people were looking for support. While going back to school helped with some of the things, they brought new stressors. Luckily, students can now get help at the Wellness Center. 

The Wellness Center is a resource for students that provides therapy and counseling in order to connect with students for any problems or concerns in their life. ¨We also provide a calming room, it is a room covered in padding where a student can calm themselves if they are having an anxiety attack or just simply need space,¨ said Jessica Ortega, a Mental Health Therapist on staff. Due to the fact that we have so many students on campus, a lot of students can tend to tense up with so much stress and packed hallways. ¨There is a calming room inside the Wellness Center that students can use if they are having an anxiety attack or just simply need space,¨ said Ortega.

According to The American Psychological Association (APA), 81% of Gen Z teens (ages 13–17) have experienced more intense stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working remotely from home was hard for a lot of students, being able to focus and experiencing something new is difficult. 

Students need that social life; it lets them express themselves and have someone to talk to. The American Physiological Association reports 8.5% of teens suffered from social isolation or lack of social interaction. Furthermore, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia passed bills that allow children to be absent from school for a Mental Health day. Dr. Koplewicz, a medical director of Child Mind Institute’s state that getting mental health days minimizes mental health disorders. Lorena Sanchez, the school’s social worker in the Wellness Center states, ¨“I’m a strong advocate for self care, although it is not a simple answer. It sounds like a good idea, however it needs to be further explored on how it can be implemented. If you’re facing mental health challenges whether that can be stress, anxiety, or depression, please remember the wellness center is available for support.”

Two students, who prefer to stay anonymous, spoke of their experiences in the Wellness Center. One student said, ¨Having that person to talk to that I can trust makes me feel safe and less stressed on what is going on in my life. Coming back from the pandemic I developed social anxiety and along with the Wellness comes the calming room. Seeing the hallways packed and so many people in school makes me really anxious and to solve that I go in the calming room and just sit there and relax. The Wellness Center has really helped me a lot and I am very thankful I have this resource available to me.¨ Another student said, ¨I have family problems going on in my life and that is why I go to the Wellness Center to say what I have on my chest and let it all out,¨ they said ¨Being able to have someone to speak to has comforted me and I feel much more better than I was before.¨

The Wellness Center is available for all students starting 10 minutes before school and during school hours. If a student needs immediate help, they can walk in, otherwise there are steps that need to be taken prior to going in: 

  1. Students see their academic counselor first to assess the level of need and, if indicated, a referral is sent to the Wellness Center for ongoing support. This would usually involve a teacher sending them to their counselor.
  2. Self refer through the school website.
  3. If having a mental health crisis, and physically near the WC, students are welcome to come in.

A majority of students have not been aware of the Wellness Center and the staff who work there  encourages everyone to take advantage of this resource. Ortega states, ¨Our goal is to be here for you guys, for any type of health. We provide therapy for the students and want them to feel safe and trusted.¨ The Wellness Center is located across from the 700s, on the student parking lot side.