TWIN FALLS — Stress is a near-universal feeling for high schoolers. And often, students are dealing with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues along with the normal stresses of being a teenager.
But Lauren Parker, Twin Falls High School’s student body vice president, noticed mental health wasn’t often discussed at school.
The 17-year-old, who’s interested in brain sciences, wanted to see that change. She felt a dialogue was needed.
“It’s not really talked about in schools very much,” she said.
Over the summer, Lauren came up with an idea: Student council should organize an assembly about coping with mental illness and everyday stresses. Once school started, Lauren met once a week with Krystal Koelling, student assistant specialist at Twin Falls High, to plan the event. Finally, after four months of work, student council led an assembly Monday for the student body.
Now, the student council hopes a leadership team at the school — including students and teachers — will meet quarterly to help students who are struggling and to bring up topics such as mental health.
To prepare for the assembly, student leaders created a survey, which their peers filled out during advisory class. Results show 35 percent of students reported having a mental illness and 25 percent have been diagnosed. And 40 percent of students report occasionally feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
The student council’s technology coordinator, 18-year-old Jacob Buscher, created a database of the survey results to make correlations between data points. Results were also shared with school administrators.
During Monday’s assembly, seven community speakers with expertise in areas such as nutrition, fitness, art, music and social work shared coping mechanisms with students.
“It wasn’t just an awareness presentation,” Jacob said, but focused on how to cope.
Advice extended beyond exercising and eating healthfully, such as how art can be helpful. That resonated with a lot of students, Jacob said.
Lauren said she has been frustrated in the past when advice focuses on just one aspect of coping, such as positive thinking. With a variety of guest speakers and advice, she said, students can try what works best for them.
Everyone could find a speaker they relate to, 17-year-old student body president Lucy Murphy said.
After the assembly, the student council started hearing feedback from their peers. “I heard a lot of good things from everybody, which isn’t always the case,” Jacob said.
Koelling typically sees an influx of students in her office after a guest speaker comes and brings up emotions teenagers were trying to hide. But that didn’t happen after Monday’s assembly. Instead, students were excited about having ways to cope, she said, and it was an “uplifting and positive” assembly.
The general consensus among students, Koelling said, was “it’s nice there are other people in school who are dealing with what I am.”