Students’ mental health has been strained, from the pandemic to the tragic school shooting in Texas last week. Counselors can be a lifeline for kids dealing with stressful times.
Rebecca Pierce, a counselor at Klamath Union High School, said kids were struggling before the pandemic but COVID-19 has added a new level of anxiety, including for those who may not have struggled before. Pierce said one important approach counselors take is understanding “the student is not the problem – the problem is the problem.”
“You can help lessen student anxiety when you allow them to tell their stories,” she said, “when you allow them to – truthfully and appropriately – tell their stories and explore some of these scary things.”
In the wake of the Texas shooting, Pierce said it’s been hard for counselors, too, to cope with the tragedy. She also noted there’s a lack of counselors working at the elementary-school level.
Roberto Aguilar, a counselor at Milwaukie High School, said there’s a lot of focus in high school on the future and what life holds for students when they graduate. However, he said he thinks people should dial back their expectations of the future and focus on more immediate issues.
“One of my big concerns,” he said, “is we need to start living today and realizing that today, the present, really is the priority and really is the gift that we need to focus on.”
The American School Counselor Association recommends one counselor for every 250 students. To meet that goal, Aguilar said, Oregon would have to hire more than 740 counselors. Pierce agreed that the counselor’s role often is overlooked.
“There kind of seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what school counselors can do and also why districts would, especially I think in our rural areas, want to spend that money to hire more school counselors,” she said. “So, there’s really a lot more education needed.”