Close By: A Teenager Introduces Her School Counselor
Today on Dayton Youth Radio, we hear from Elizabeth Gaines, a Centerville High School student, about the support she's gotten from youth counselor Ms. Myers.
I'm 17, I'm a senior at Centerville High School. I'm in the Marching Band, I'm in the Color Guard, I've been doing that every single year of high school. I'm very shy, I'm very closed off, I like being alone. I like just doing things by myself.
When something bad would happen to me, my brain would dwell on it. I remember I was learning how to ride a bike. I fell off and scraped my knee. I didn't want to ride the bike anymore because I was afraid of getting hurt.
Before my parents separated, there was a lot of yelling and arguing and I knew it wasn't right but even after they divorced I worried that I still wouldn't have a normal family.
By eighth grade, my world got darker, that little voice inside my head kept telling me I wasn't good enough, I wasn't pretty enough, I wasn't skinny enough and it just filled me with this hatred and I started self-harming.
I felt like I was going to feel that way forever. I spent hours at night trying to fall asleep, but all I could think about was how much I hated myself and how much better everything would be if I was just dead.
There is no way I could just tell my mom how I was feeling, that's how I found myself in the guidance counselor office one morning.
"I try to solve problems, listen to kids and come up with solutions to what they're going through and what they're challenged with," says Ms. Myers, the Intervention Counselor at my high school.
I asked her what signs of depression parents should look for in their children.
"I think a change in personality and behavior, and I think it's really important we acknowledge that teenagers certainly go through phases and stages without a doubt. But we have to be careful not to generalize and think that everything is not a stage or a phase. We see things like isolation, emotional responses that are a little out of the ordinary. I think watching sleep and eating habits. I think as parents we have to be tuned into our kid. Not think we're tuned in. And it's our responsibility to initiate conversations, to not always lecture or get angry when we don't always here what we want. Kids need to know that we're here for them."
Ms. Myers says that it can sometimes be hard for students and parents to relate because things are very different now than when the parents grew up.
"I think as far as relating, we as adults because life is so much more on the fast track. We have to step off and really listen and not say things like move on, oh it will be fine, oh don't worry about. Like we have to those meaningful intentional conversations."
I asked her what parents should do if they think their child is depressed.
"You know the first thing I would do is probably reach out to school," she said. "You know school sees kids more than parents see kids. There's been some misconceptions that we don't want the school to know or what not. We're all working in this together, and I think we can give some kind of light. I think if the student or family is involved in some type of organization that's supportive, like a spiritual organization, just a volunteer type of thing, enlisting adults to talk with that particular child, I think a coach having a conversation. Just adults in general, reaching out and I wouldn't hesitate if there is a real concern to seek some professional help."
When I woke up for my first day of senior year, I almost started crying. I had survived! Five years ago I had never really pictured a future for myself. But here I am and I've gone from thinking about killing myself in 8th grade to thinking about going to college and having a future as an adult.
Elizabeth Gaines is a student at Centerville High School. Special Thanks to Tricia Rapoch, teacher for the Communication Arts Program at Centerville High School. Learn more at the school's website: http://www.centerville.k12.oh.us/CHS
Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.