Counselors Use Online Counseling to Reach Students

SJHHS+Counselor%2C+Kasey+Kessler%2C+reads+an+email+from+a+student+about+her+academic+burnout.

Jaden Hiraga

SJHHS Counselor, Kasey Kessler, reads an email from a student about her academic burnout.

Sandhya Ganesan, News Editor

US citizen’s propensity to mental health issues, substance abuse, and suicide has increased during the pandemic, as reported by the CDC. This fact requires that more students contact their mental health counselors, who are a resource at their disposal, especially at SJHHS. 

“We are seeing a lot of students with Anxiety and Depression- Unfortunately, these are medical diagnoses which can’t typically be changed by a quick fix. However, we want students to know there is hope! The first step is talking with someone you know and trust about what’s going on and how you are feeling,” said SJH counselor, Kasey Kessler. 

Kessler and her partner Jenna Jorheim have set up an online format for students who are in need of sessions. They reach out to their students through cell phone, canvas, or email and offer “mini-sessions” over zoom to check in with students. 

While these are available, not enough awareness has been raised about the topic. “ We do worry that student’s won’t know how to reach us. Especially the incoming freshman and transfer students who have never met us or seen us in person,” said Kessler. 

To combat the issue, Jordheim and Kessler have been releasing introduction videos that go out weekly to families at SJHHS. The videos help people understand who they are and make them more personable to their students. In addition, a Canvas classroom has been created for students and offers mental health resources and contact with their counselors. “We also have a SJHHS Counselor Corner Page. The page has a virtual relaxation room, tons of resources for specialized mental health services and lists how to get in touch with us,” said Kessler. 

We were concerned that students may not feel as comfortable for counseling sessions via a virtual platform. However, this was not the case, students who really need the support of counseling have been able to find it through signing up to speak with us online”

— Kessler

While the transition in the midst of the pandemic was a little overwhelming, there have been some successes with the new format. 

“We were concerned that students may not feel as comfortable for counseling sessions via a virtual platform. However, this was not the case, students who really need the support of counseling have been able to find it through signing up to speak with us online,” said Kessler. 

Kessler mentioned the difficulty of not being able to see students in person and having difficulty scheduling sessions, but there has been an impact with the students who have been met with. 

 “Sometimes students feel more comfortable in their own homes talking with a counselor. Also, when referring a student to a therapist, sometimes it’s a lot easier for the student to start meeting with a therapist because they can just jump on a virtual therapy session rather than having to wait for a ride and/ or schedule with their family to physically get to the therapy session. Sometimes it’s easier to identify a family connection for the student if needed or family support because they may just be in the next room vs. trying to get a hold of a parent from school which can sometimes be tough,” said Kessler. 

Both Jordheim and Kessler have been seeing a lot of referrals for family or personal related issues, which has made both their work loads more difficult to manage. Stress levels are very high for parents and students, and many are not accustomed to so much family time which leads to conflicts. 

“Virtual school has been very difficult for many of our students, making it hard to focus and get motivated. Yet, through this all, we are also seeing family connectedness, more students and parents connecting in ways that are very positive and some students have even reported feeling good about distance learning and prefer it to brick and mortar classes,” said Kessler. 

The most important thing to note is that we are never too busy to meet with you. If you are struggling, help is available and we encourage you to come see us if you ever need a listening ear and be kind to yourselves during this time”

— Kessler

Kessler predicts that with the continuation of the pandemic, more students will be needing to see a counselor, especially with the new hybrid learning system. “The most important thing to note is that we are never too busy to meet with you. If you are struggling, help is available and we encourage you to come see us if you ever need a listening ear and be kind to yourselves during this time,” said Kessler. 

The amazing support the counselors are trying to provide is not just unique to SJHHS. In fact, counselors district wide are hosting monthly webinars for parents about topics that have come up during distance learning and global response to the pandemic. The topics range from emotional coaching, student anxiety, social justice, and parent guardian self care. 

Additionally, both SJH counselors have also been doing self paced counseling lessons with teachers who give them permission in virtual classes via Canvas. The topics can be similar to the webinars hosted, and also include academic burnout and stress management.  

Both counsellors understand the importance of speaking about your feelings, especially during this unprecedented time, and want to be there to help in any way possible. There are many methods to dealing with the stress and anxiety that the pandemic has caused for many students they’ve seen. 

“Some tips that you can try to keep a calm and level head space are to practice your deep breathing, practice mindfulness and gratitude journals and focus on doing one small thing every single day that brings you joy. I know these sound silly at first, but each one has been proven by science to help the brain calm down and feel more at peace. In the midst of this Pandemic, a lot of our normal coping skills are out of reach. Let’s practice trying to find new coping skills that we CAN do during this time,” said Kessler.