So Stressed Out | WHS Mental Health Series


Samantha Vega-Torres, Senior Writer

Teens are not learning the proper emotional skills to prepare for adulthood. The education system today focuses too much on academic achievement and the praise behind it. According to The United States Department of Health and Human Services and Psychology Today, mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and stress are linked to the concept of “Nature vs Nurture”. The Department of Health and Human Services also stated, “one in five adolescents has had a serious mental health disorder, such as depression and/or anxiety disorders, at some point in their life…Unfortunately, less than half of adolescents with psychiatric disorders received any kind of treatment in the last year.” This could be equity wise or even due to the lack of knowledge behind mental illnesses. There are spectrums and severities which many people, especially teens do not fully understand.

Well if you are like me and went a whole two years without knowing what a school adjustment counselor is, they are certified or licensed professionals that work to support the emotional needs of the students of the year assigned which they follow from their freshman year to graduation. Mrs. Feeley is a Waltham High School alumnus that has an LCSW which she gained from her master’s at Boston College and received a Bachelor’s in social work. Ms. Malone, another Waltham High School alumnus attended Stonehill College for her undergraduate school, and went to graduate school at Salem State University but finished a SAC program at Cambridge College. She has obtained a master’s, bachelor’s, and a CAGS (certificate of advanced graduate studies). The School Adjustment Counselors, Mrs. Feeley, Ms. Malone and an anonymous Waltham High School Student discussed Mental Health at WHS, specific procedures, and their opinions on a controversial Netflix show.

Stress was one of our largest topics of conversation, as it affects teenagers both personally and academically. In fact, 45% of teenagers stated in a recent survey that stress affects them “all the time”. When asked if they knew the average amount of students that come to them in regards to stress management or other stress-related issues, Mrs. Feeley claimed it was very common as a “large minority of [her] time a week is helping kids deal with stress”, following with her estimate of seeing “five kids a day for stress”. Keep in mind there are around 175 to 180 days in the average United States school year. This means that about 895 to 900 students are visiting her each school year in regards to stress, and those numbers are only spiking. Although Ms. Malone views stress as being “really broad”, she did estimate that around “80% of the students [she] sees is about stress management”. Mrs. Feeley is the School Adjustment Counselor for the Senior Class of 2019. When asked whether she considered senior year to be the most stressful for students she responded with “the first term, not entirely the whole year. It’s so much fun..I know that some students still have stressors, but there’s also a lot to celebrate”, the caring SAC even advised that the seniors “Be in the moment and enjoy [senior year] as well, and keep things in perspective”.

Mrs. Feeley did not consider senior year to be the most stressful, but she did share her thoughts on the academic challenges of junior year, despite stating that “every year has its own challenge” she declared sophomore year to be the worst. During my interview with Ms. Malone I asked a similar question, but about her grade, the Sophomore Class of 2021. She found the question difficult to answer but clarified that “For some students during sophomore year can be very challenging. MCAS, heavy schedule, younger end in terms of maturity, self-management and personal relationships” which Ms. Malone considered being the trends of sophomore year. She explained that while trends and stressors come along with each year, it depends on the student and the events occurring in the student’s life. Both SACs did advise tips for stress management including: relaxation activities that lower your heart rate (meditation, deep breathing, listening to calming music, being out in nature, etc.), spending time with people that make you happy, a good diet, proper sleep, time with family, a healthy balance of work and play.