Opinion:Destigmatize Counseling in the Palo Alto Community
Counseling at Palo Alto High School is highly stigmatized, and is a concept many students are ignorant towards. Some do not know what Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS) is or exactly what it does.
“I don’t think people utilize [counseling] as much as they could,” senior Sharissa Holopainen said. “Many students fear it could be viewed as a weakness.”This is not right.
We as an educational community need to destigmatize counseling for students. Staff and students alike must begin to view counseling as a positive thing at our high school, not as a sign of weakness.
So let’s set one thing straight: Going to counseling is completely normal.
Counseling is not just for the mentally ill. According to the ACS webpage, students can go to counseling for a range of reasons such as (but not limited to): peer relationships, isolation, grief and loss, substance abuse, depression, cross-cultural issues, self esteem, academic stress, sexuality, parent/child communication and anxiety.
“People often associate asking for help as a negative thing,” senior Chloe Finley said. “I think we should continue to stress the importance of asking for help when you need it and that talking about your problems with a counselor is very beneficial.”
Counseling can be in individual or group sessions. Counseling can be for when you’re having a bad day, or when you get into a fight with your parents. It can be for when you fail a test, or even when you’ve just gotten great news and want someone to listen.
Now that we’ve cleared all that up, let’s talk about who else you can talk to on campus if you aren’t inclined to attend ACS. At Paly, your Teacher Adviser and guidance counselor are trained to assist you if you ask them for help. They can refer you to someone to talk to, help you manage your stress or just be there to listen. Not to mention, your peers and teachers can often be an incredible support system, and we should not forget to rely on them in times of need. There are countless people at Paly who want to help you through whatever you’re going through.
Counseling is a great method for helping students that our school provides for free. Don’t assume that if you weren’t referred to the counselor or diagnosed as having a mental illness that counseling can’t help you. Even going to visit the counselor to say hi and get acquainted is a great way to get comfortable with both the counselors and the general idea of counseling.
Even if you are completely content with yourself and your life, encouraging others to go and being knowledgable about counseling services on campus can do a lot.
“I think the best way to stop the stigma is to get both students and adults who have struggled and who have used counseling to help them manage to come clean about it,” junior Elana Rebitzer said. “I know it’s a really difficult topic for a lot of people, but if students see peers and respected adults saying ‘I had a tough time, I was in your shoes, but going through counseling helped me to be where I am today’ more students would be likely to try it.”
Students: We are a community within ourselves. As much as we would like them to, often times parents and school staff simply do not understand what we go through like we do. It is our responsibility as well to look out for our peers. It is also important to not forget to look out for yourselves. Yes, we are in high school, but we are also in a crucial time in our lives. I implore you all to have some fun. Spend time doing things you love. Go out with your friends. Put your homework down and go for a walk. You are all important not just as students, but as people.
ACS is located both off the Quad in the library (next to the Academic Resource Center) and in the Tower Building on the first floor in room 5 1/2.
A list of school and community resources are available on the PAUSD Health Services page and the Counseling Services page. If you need immediate assistance, the Santa Clara County Suicide and Crisis Hotline is available at 1-855-278-4204 at any time. These numbers are also available on the back of student ID cards. If you feel you or someone you know needs immediate support, please call 911.