Virtual Hugs: Mental Health Support From a Distance | Ellyse Givens
Being in your house all day is difficult, to say the least. If no one else is going to say it, I will. It’s difficult to wave hello to your teachers over Google Meets, to attempt to forge relations with peers within chat rooms and text message chains. Returning to school virtually two weeks ago can merely feel like a reminder of all that we miss about CCA’s physical campus atmosphere: pushing your way up the rainbow stairs through a sea of shoulders and backpacks, shouting “Happy Wednesday!!!” to Hector across the quad, speed walking to third period at 11:51 AM. It’s the minuscule moments of everyday CCA life — whose absences seem to sting the most. But luckily, even while we stay isolated, there are resources for students who may be struggling with their mental health, both external and provided by SDUHSD and CCA. And, I know — it can be easy to doubt the efficacy of the many materials available to us on the interent. But sometimes, the smallest connections, the smallest validations, can make all of the difference.
CCA PALS, usually seen on campus donning blue t-shirts, overseeing Community Day, and bringing adorable dogs to mitigate our finals week fears, are still very active albeit the virtual nature of our campus environment. If you’d like to connect with a peer to discuss anything from your favorite quarantine hobbies to issues you may be struggling with, you can request to speak to a PAL via their website. By doing so, you will be contacted by a PAL trained in counseling, who you can converse with per Google Meets (video on or off!). Confidentiality is a top priority for CCA PALS, so you can feel safe talking about any anxiety, stress, adjustments, or relationships that may be unfolding in your life — with someone your age, who will listen openly and empathize. Moreover, this week, Yellow Ribbon Week, PALS has been working dilligently to provide interactive activities for CCA students promoting suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Every day, CCA students have been submitting artwork pertaining to various mental health and wellness themes. Check out the link in CCA PALS’s Instagram (@ccapals) bio to see a slideshow compilation of students’ creations.
Moreover, CCA’s Raven Wellness Website, a project of the Raven Wellness Team compiled of staff, counselors, and administrators, contains a plethora of resources available to students coping with depression, anxiety, and transition, including helpful and relevant podcast, book, and article recommendations. There is also a Peer to Peer advice document created by other students for new freshmen, which includes general CCA information as well as advice in navigating health, school life, and academics. For further support, SDUHSD has partnered with CareSolace, an online resource with a 24 hour phone line helping individuals to find local mental health programs and counsleing services. On the site, you answer ten questions regarding issues you are grappling with, resources you are seeking, etc., then are matched with therapists, outpatient centers, and other programs near you.
There are also various other apps that are simultaneously breaking down the barriers possibly encountered while seeking mental health support — making services and information significantly more convenient and accessible. Mobile apps also allow for augmented confidentiality and privacy, and thus create a safer space if you are hesitant to speak with a therapist, PAL, school counselor, or to seek outpatient treatment. NotOK is a free app designed by two teenagers that features a red button that can inform close friends, relatives, etc. if the user is struggling or in need of help. Moodkit, developed by two clinical psychologists, utilizes Cognitive Behavorial Therapy (CBT) techniques within over 200 different mood improvement activities. Likewise, the app Happify is a psychologist approved mood training program, that includes activities, games, and prompts to train your brain to overcome negative thinking patterns. Both the Calm and Headspace apps, although somewhat costly, offer guided meditations, visualizations, breathing exercises, and mindfulness practices that can help soothe anxiety, transition into sleep, and combat intrusive thoughts.
Ultimately, though, what we need is each other. And although we can’t be together physically, don’t be afraid to lean on each other (from a distance) because, chances are, others are experiencing the same things — and they too will find comfort in knowing they are not alone. And remember that the world, the broader mental wellness community, your school district, your school, your teachers, and your friends care for you. There are people looking out for you. There are people that want to help you. Don’t forget that.
Hang in there, CCA.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255