Counseling Newsletter

Mental Health & Wellness

Welcome to our November issue!

Welcome to our counseling newsletter that has been created to help support students and their social and emotional well-being. Knowledgeable and useful information has been provided to encourage and care for our students at Harriton and Lower Merion High School. We hope students can find something in any of these articles or resources they can connect to or find meaningful.

Mental Health

Stop the Stigma by Julia Loverdi

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 48 Million US adults experienced mental illness in 2018. Mental health disorders are real medical conditions just like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. A mental illness is a condition that affects a person's thinking, feeling, behavior, or mood (NAMI.org). Research suggests genetics, environment, and lifestyle influence whether someone develops a mental health condition (NAMI.org). There are, however, many misunderstandings surrounding mental illness.

If you fell and broke your arm, would you go to a doctor to get it treated? If you were sick with cancer, would you see a doctor for treatment? Most of us would take care of ourselves and get the help we need to feel better. When thinking about Mental health, we can think of it like this. If we are feeling sad and are unable to begin to feel better or are beginning to feel as though life is extremely overwhelming or stressful, it is okay to say to ourselves I can reach out for help and talk to someone: a counselor, a professional, a parent, a coach. Any trusted adult. Many times, people don’t reach out for help due to a stigma that is attached to mental health.

According to Mayoclinic, stigma can be defined as “when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that's thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage.” Research has shown that stigma is one of the leading risk factors contributing to poor mental health outcomes (verywellmind.org) Stigma leads to delays in treatment and reduces the chances that a person with mental illness will receive appropriate and adequate care (www.verywellmind.com). Many times, people are often uneducated about the realities of mental illness including how common they are. According to NAMI, one in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Our voices together can help stop the stigma and by simply knowing that mental illness is not anyone’s fault.

Here are nine ways you can help fight mental health stigma from the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

Talk Openly About Mental Health

“I fight stigma by talking about what it is like to have bipolar disorder and PTSD on Facebook. Even if this helps just one person, it is worth it for me.” – Angela Christie Roach Taylor

Educate Yourself And Others

“I take every opportunity to educate people and share my personal story and struggles with mental illness. It doesn't matter where I am, if I overhear a conversation or a rude remark being made about mental illness, or anything regarding a similar subject, I always try to use that as a learning opportunity and gently intervene and kindly express how this makes me feel, and how we need to stop this because it only adds to the stigma.” – Sara Bean

Be Conscious Of Language

“I fight stigma by reminding people that their language matters. It is so easy to refrain from using mental health conditions as adjectives and in my experience, most people are willing to replace their usage of it with something else if I explain why their language is problematic.” – Helmi Henkin

Encourage Equality Between Physical And Mental Illness

“I find that when people understand the facts of what a mental illness is, being a disease, they think twice about making comments. I also remind them that they wouldn't make fun of someone with diabetes, heart disease or cancer.” – Megan Dotson

Show Compassion For Those With Mental Illness

“I offer free hugs to people living outdoors, and sit right there and talk with them about their lives. I do this in public, and model compassion for others. Since so many of our homeless population are also struggling with mental illness, the simple act of showing affection can make their day but also remind passersby of something so easily forgotten: the humanity of those who are suffering.” – Rachel Wagner

Choose Empowerment Over Shame

“I fight stigma by choosing to live an empowered life. To me, that means owning my life and my story and refusing to allow others to dictate how I view myself or how I feel about myself.” – Val Fletcher

Be Honest About Treatment

“I fight stigma by saying that I see a therapist and a psychiatrist. Why can people say they have an appointment with their primary care doctor without fear of being judged, but this lack of fear does not apply when it comes to mental health professionals?” – Ysabel Garcia

Let The Media Know When They’re Being Stigmatizing

“If I watch a program on TV that has any negative comments, storylines, or characters with a mental illness, I write to the broadcasting company and to the program itself. If Facebook has any stories where people make ignorant comments about mental health, then I write back and fill them in on my son’s journey with schizoaffective disorder.” – Kathy Smith

Don’t Harbor Self-Stigma

“I fight stigma by not having a stigma for myself—not hiding from this world in shame, but being a productive member of society. I volunteer at church, have friends, and I’m a peer mentor and a mom. I take my treatment seriously. I'm purpose-driven and want to show others they can live a meaningful life even while battling [mental illness].” – Jamie Brown

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Spreading Courage, Resiliency and Strength with Karen Corkery at Harriton High School by Julia Loverdi

I recently interviewed Harriton High School’s Health and Physical Education teacher Karen Corkery on a number of topics related to health and wellness. Karen has been a Health and Physical Education teacher for 24 years at Harriton High School. Here are some questions we cover during the interview.

Question: What do you love most about your job here?

Answer: I love being with the kids and playing racket sports: tennis & badminton.

Question: What are some of the topics covered in your mental health curriculum to the tenth graders?

Answer: Stress, positive and negative coping strategies, social media effects, resiliency and GRIT, positive self-talk, suicide, sleep, how to manage stress, Maslow pyramid of needs, emotional intelligence, depression, body image, bullying, managing anger.

Question: I understand towards the end of the school year; the students do an extensive final project including a health final. Can you tell me more about that?

Answer: The health final is a health fair presentation. With the final project, students can pick any health topic. They do extensive research with scientific articles. They also interview an expert in the field their topic is on. The students' research must answer an essential question. Scholarly articles, current data from the CDC, John Hopkins, and Harvard research are used for projects. Some examples of projects done by students in the past are: Negative effects of gaming, Why is exercise important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle? How can drinking water change your life? Why should teens avoid smoking and tobacco use, and what should they do to avoid usage?


The health fair presentation usually takes place in the Harriton school gymnasium but this year students had a virtual health fair!

Question: What message do you want students to leave with after this content is covered?

Answer: The message is we are trying to break the stigma and encourage everyone to utilize resources available in the home, community, and school. We also want to encourage students to be that one person to make a difference in someone’s life and be that one person that may notice something and have courage and resiliency and strength to help someone to get the resources. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to someone; they are going to help you. People want to help-don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Question: What outside resources do you use to help support your mental health curriculum.

Answer: Minding your Mind

Question: How has the student’s response been to this?

Answer: Amazing response! We also have students write a letter to the speaker pretending to be their friend. They write a letter of encouragement or care telling them they are there for them.

Wellness & Self-Care

Here are some coping strategies for stress and anxiety from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:


Take a time-out. Listen to music, practice mindfulness, learn some relaxation techniques, go for a walk, step outside, and breathe in the fresh air. Stepping back from the problems helps clear your head.

Exercise Daily to help relieve stress and stay healthy

Welcome Humor. A good laugh goes a long way

Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly. Count to ten slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.

Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.

Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective. Is it really as bad as you think?

Maintain a positive attitude. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Get involved. Volunteer or connect with your peers and family members safely.

Learn what triggers your everyday anxiety. Is it school? family? Look for a pattern and keep a journal.

Practice self-care. Do something for yourself that you love or enjoy.

Talk to someone. Let friends and family you are feeling overwhelmed and how they can help.

School counselors are also available to help!

https://adaa.org/tips

Take a look at https://screening.mhanational.org/content/what-anxiety if you have additional questions about anxiety.
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