A School Counselor’s Perspective on Teen Mental Health

Ashley Anderson, School Counselor, James Madison High School, Fairfax, VA – (June 2021) 

As I reflect on the past year, what I see happening in the high school setting is a tsunami of mental health concerns. Our teens were in crisis before COVID-19 and this pandemic has made a bad situation so much worse. My colleagues and I are seeing a disturbing increase in anxiety, depression, and an increasing number of our students are being hospitalized. The instances of self-harm are on the rise including having and, tragically, acting on suicidal thoughts. We are noting a rise in eating disorders in both young women and men. Our LGBTQIA and students of color teens are among our most vulnerable. With the rise of social unrest, many of our youth describe feeling defeated and hopeless about addressing issues and conflicts in our nation and around the globe.

Every day school counselors like me are part of the support team on the front line. I am very grateful to The Women’s Center for the vital services they provide to help our youth heal and foster a sense of hope. The need is growing so rapidly. I am most concerned about those whose families do not have resources. The Women’s Center is unique in providing services to anyone – women, men, teens and children – without insurance, offering services on a sliding fee-scale. The Center’s campaign to create an Adolescent Mental Health Program will fund the creation of two therapists to meet this demand. The new staff will reach out to people like me and other key individuals in schools to raise awareness, work to destigmatize asking for help, mobilize those who can connect adolescents in need to available resources. Being on the frontline requires us to identify problems before these become crises, to respond in a timely way when a crisis arises, and reducing the stress of “re-entry.” I see how caring people make a difference with healing and recovery. I appreciate all the members of our community who join these efforts to be part of positive change. Together in these challenging times we will continue to help our teens to honor who they are and realize their full potential. I thank the supporters of The Women’s Center for your helpful impact.