The MCHS psychologist’s office (Photo: Jungyeon Lee, The Puma Prensa)
by Jungyeon Lee, staff writer
Generally, due to COVID-19 challenges, students are struggling more than they might have a few years back, their mental health taking a big hit. Numerous students, “more than ever before,” according to Darcy Analora, the Maria Carrillo High School psychologist, are seeking help.
In response to the increased need for assistance, Santa Rosa City Schools this year has brought professional marriage and family therapists, or MFTs, on to campuses. Meghan Marre is one of the MFTs at Maria Carrillo. She is available Monday through Friday during school hours.
Students may wonder: In what case would I be able to get a therapy appointment? According to Marre, “You can always, especially if you feel burnt out. Your counselors are great to talk to, because they have counseling certificates as well. If someone is anxious or overwhelmed and wants to talk, I think it’s OK [to seek help].” If students would like to see a therapist at school, they need to put in the request to speak with their counselor, and then their counselor will make a referral to one of the therapists. There’s a Google Form to request an appointment on the SRCS website as well.
There are other people providing mental health services on campus, too. Theresa McCormick is another MFT who stays Wednesday through Friday, and Analora, the school psychologist, can also help. A therapy appointment at MCHS would only be only during the school hours. However, if someone needs more flexibility in terms of time or needs additional support outside school hours, the Lewis Center, in the same neighborhood as the district office and Santa Rosa High School, might be more helpful. According to Marre, “Sometimes people bring their whole family for therapy.”
Analora meets with people experiencing more severe cases of mental distress and diagnoses mental health conditions such as learning disabilities by carrying out various tests. When a student is not necessarily having an emotional issue but are instead having problems learning, counselors and parents have a meeting. Then, basic interventions and accommodations are instituted in a student’s classes. An example might be having their desk near the front of the room so the student can focus better. If the student is still struggling after a month or so, the school asks parents to get a medical diagnosis. At this stage, Analora does what is called a “psycho-educational evaluation,” which means evaluating whether a student qualifies for a special education. It is made up of a series of tests and observations, a records review, and more. “The tests that are done usually consist of one or more of the following: academic, cognitive, motor and perception, socio-emotional, and adaptive, speech and occupational therapy.”
Sean Nash, junior, was concerned about Maria Carrillo’s mental health resources after his first and only experience with the system. Some time in the first semester, he decided to email his counselor in the hopes of setting up an appointment to talk with a therapist. He wanted to discuss stress he was experiencing because of social and academic issues. He was expecting to get the approval to see a therapist, but instead he was first called in to the counselor’s office. He said he was not comfortable talking about his problems because he was worried his counselor was taking on a therapist’s role for which they may not be qualified. He eventually sought out external mental health resources after his experience trying with the school’s.
According to Analora, most students have to start by meeting with their counselor due to the combination of MCHS’s large population and the trying events of the past few troublesome years. Students usually visit counselors about classes or academics, but those counselors also have basic knowledge and training about mental health. If the situation warrants more help, a referral will be made to a therapist. Then, a therapist might refer to the psychologist if needed.
For information about the school district’s mental health resources, the SRCS website has a list of mental health resources that was created for students struggling during the distance learning period of the COVID-19 crisis. The page is named “Integrated Wellness Center,” and it includes a Google Form to request an appointment with the therapist, as well as information for parents and caregivers who might be concerned for any reason.
Marre said “Not only are there resources available at school, there are resources out in the community. If anybody needs help finding support to make sure they send a message either to the counseling desk or myself and I’ll make sure I send some extra resources.”