Pushed to the Limit


Hello from the other side.
In high school many pressures compete for a student’s attention and with so much changing in their everyday environment, the extra stress of a social conflict or other stressor can weaken mental health.
“I think the biggest issue is that no one really has a filter anymore,” says an male sophomore at ETHS. “We claim to be a more supportive community but people throw around hurtful insults and don’t realize how one misguided comment can tear someone else down.”
Having good mental health is challenging during adolescence. According to Juneau Suicide Prevention, an organization based in Alaska, somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of youth will suffer from at least one depressive episode before they reach adulthood.
Many students claim that junior year is the make it or break it year in high school. When the pressure is on to produce stellar grades and achieve high test scores for college admissions, outside activities, sports and an ever increasing homework load from the introduction of AP classes can seem like the end of the world.
“Junior year is when my mental disorder hit me the hardest,” explains a female senior student. “It seemed like no matter what I did I wasn’t good enough and my work could always be improved. I could never look at a mirror and feel happy. It was all stress, worry and problem areas.”
There are a lot of resources for students at ETHS to discuss mental ailments. Students can self-refer themselves to their grade level social workers and receive support if they feel that their social and/or emotional difficulties are interfering with their success at school.
“If there’s one thing I could have told myself to do earlier that year, it would be to go see the social workers because they really want to help,” says the female senior.
Another resource for students is Erika’s Lighthouse. The ETHS chapter, started only four years ago, meets Tuesday mornings during AM support in W214 to discuss and promote awareness of mental disorders, specifically depression.
“Everyone deserves good mental health, warning signs of depression and to know how to help a friend,” says Marie Livatino, club co-sponsor.
Livatino and Karen Morris, counselor, sponsor the club and help gather supplies for events that the students organize. This past month the group created and sent around gratitude jars for the ETHS community. To promote awareness over winter break the club plans to decorate and pass out holiday cards with motivational messages.
“We started an ETHS section of Erika’s Lighthouse because we saw the need to bust the stigma (about depression) and raise awareness so that people can talk about mental health and become advocates for good mental health,” says Livatino.
The club has an open door policy, meaning that students can stop by at any time. As long as they want to help, students are always welcome. The club’s numbers have been growing exponentially; many find it a great way to help others through their own experience.
As freshman all students will take part in a teen panel with members of the club during second semester P.E. The panel will return to St. Athanasius to present there again this year. The panel has also been invited to present at District 65 middle schools this spring.
“This is a club to help students give back so others can understand that they don’t need to be alone,” stresses Livatino.