Students’ stories: The power of mental health support
By Cheryl Kono (PSW & UTLA Vice Chair, Harbor/South Area)
Psychiatric social workers are honored to listen to our students’ stories and make a positive impact on their lives. Our students’ voices give us a true picture of what’s underlying their attitudes, behaviors, and engagement in school. So many students face personal, family, school, and/or community challenges that impact their mental well-being, but they often suffer in silence. These students may feel that there is no one safe to talk to who can maintain confidentiality, while providing the unconditional acceptance, hope, and support they need to help them to be successful in school and in life. This is where psychiatric social workers come in.
“I didn’t want to get off my couch”
At the beginning of the school year, I was okay, but not feeling happy. Until the middle of the year, that’s when I was down on my luck. I didn’t really want to get off my couch. I didn’t really want to talk to my family about it, since I thought I would be a burden to them. Then, I started therapy with the PSW, talking about it and opening up about it. It was stress-relieving and I found that I wasn’t alone. There were others with my problems. Since I had therapy, I started to work more with my emotions. Once I did, my life was much more relaxed and I’m able to speak more proudly.
“I tried to make friends, but kids are mean”
When I first entered high school, I, like many other students, dealt with depression from a big change and a sense of isolationism. I tried to make friends, but kids are mean and often two-faced. I found myself in a place where I constantly felt like I had nowhere to turn, like I was alone in a big school with no one to talk to. Seeing a PSW weekly and opening up made the world look a little brighter. I found myself coming out of a ditch. I kept working with my PSW, who helped me become the happy and healthy person I am today. Without my school’s PSW and resource connections, I don’t know where I’d be or how miserable I’d feel. In ninth grade, my grades were dropping, but now I’m an excellent student, varsity athlete, club president, and a leader. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that without the support I got from my PSW.
“I was trapped in overwhelming sadness”
Getting through high school felt like an uphill battle. I was unable to do well in class for various reasons and I was constantly a manic depressive. I was always affable when talking with people, but at home I often times cried myself to sleep. This came to a head when I wanted to commit suicide last semester. I was trapped in an overwhelming sadness. I was referred to the PSW at my school to get the crisis intervention I needed.
My threats were so serious that I was admitted to a mental health hospital. In there, I learned that the answers I was looking for lay within myself. I felt like the PSW’s group therapy helped me to see that other people have struggles like my own. Life seems to be on the upturn for me and all I can do is hope it stays like this.
—2019 High School Graduate
Mental Health Awareness Clubs create culture of peer support
LAUSD is home to a number of Mental Health Awareness Clubs—student-led groups dedicated to mental health conversations. The clubs give students a platform to share their voices and raise awareness. The goal is to empower students to educate one another, and their communities, and to create a culture of peer support within their schools.
Joshua co-founded the MHA Club at his school with psychiatric social worker Cheryl Kono.
“I get to work with my peers and my school’s PSW to create activities and events to bring the issue of mental health stigma to light,” Joshua says. “Those who need help shouldn’t have to hide from their peers in fear of being judged and should be given the resources they need. The more our club does to battle mental health stigma and educate others, the more people we can help. Not only is our club an important resource on our campus for others, but I know it will always be a group of people I can rely on when I need help.”