Mind games

Megan Cleveland, features writer

She sits across the room and watches as her student trembles in their chair. Long sleeves cover the students scarred arms and the talk of suicide consumes the room. For Ceci Bodet, education support counselor, this is just one of the many conversations she hears at KHS.

Bodet works for a school based mental health program by BJC Behavioral Health, an embedded school program that attends to clinical and mental health in a school setting. Through BJC, Bodet was sent to KHS, to help students who suffer from suicidal ideation or thoughts, chronic substance use, anxiety disorders, trauma, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder or personal conflicts impacting a student’s mental health.

“Although KHS is doing a much better job addressing these topics than most schools due to our supportive administration, there is alway more to be done,” Bodet said. “One in five people will struggle with mental illness throughout their life. If this were any other medical condition with such a high rate, society would be doing a lot more to take action.”

While taking a child psychology class at Xavier University, Bodet became interested in psychology during her junior year of college. After graduating from Xavier University with a major in psychology, Bodet enrolled at Webster University in 2012 to continue her studies. Two years later in November 2014, Bodet was hired by Catholic Family Services and worked one day a week at KHS, and four days of the week at Kirkwood Early Childhood Center (KECC). Bodet then accepted her current position at BJC Behavioral Health in July of 2015, allowing her to work full time at KHS. While working with various students, Bodet studied the patterns of mental illness such as depression and anxiety, developing throughout KHS.

“The smartphones and AP classes are the main stressors at [KHS],” Bodet said. “Whether it is an intrinsic or extrinsic motivation that causes these pressures, today’s teens are now growing up in an entirely different world than past generations.”

Along with Bodet, Lynn Dorsey, educational support counselor, also advocates to inform students about mental health awareness. With the increasing rate of KHS students suffering from mental illnesses, Dorsey hopes to establish a permanent awareness that fits KHS needs by supporting each individual student.

“Kirkwood is a very high-achieving school district where lots of children strive for success,” Dorsey said. “However, this acts as a prominent stressor, resulting in a lot of anxiety and depression throughout KSD.”

Joe Fisch, 10th grade guidance counselor, also encounters students who face the challenge of balancing their schedule and mental health. With students’ minds consumed with worries of enrolling in more rigorous courses and applying for college, the development of anxiety and depression among the student body has rapidly increased over time Fisch said.

“Many students are influenced by social pressures to take rigorous classes in order to not fall behind,” Fisch said. “As a result, kids begin to obsess about their class rank and GPA, causing a snowball effect starting with excessive stress and leading into poor mental health or an illness.”

With the support of KHS administration, Bodet has scheduled school assemblies in order to increase awareness for mental health and provide tools such as hotlines, for students to rely on. By educating students on how to find help and live a balanced lifestyle, Bodet says KHS can pave the way to creating healthier and happier minds.

“There are a lot of kids out there who can benefit from seeing a counselor but still can’t quite get there,” Bodet said. “The kids who are out there, need to know that we are here to help, we are here to stay and we are here for them.”