Help at the Health Center

Staff writer Carrie Cao ’23 sat down with Mrs. Jodi von Jess, director of counseling, to discuss recent trends in mental health care at the school.
How has use of the Health Center changed over the past few years?
I have noticed an increase over the years; I think some of the students are coming to the school already with a familiarity or past experiences with mental health support. I think there is a decrease in stigma [surrounding mental health], so more students are accessing it.
What strategies or practices do the counseling staff employ to help stu- dents manage mental health issues?
We work a lot with their thoughts, just noticing them, but not trying to change them or judge them. Some- times it’s just figuring out what to do next when somebody is immobilized. Also, [we normalize] typical teenage thoughts and issues and [help] people feel like they are not alone. Also, [we honor] students’ resiliency and their ability to make choices and make a change.
What, if anything, would you like to change about the school for all the students?
I would love to prioritize sleep, [increase] connection with others in some way, [and have more] space that is reflective. All the counselors be- lieve in the practice of meditation and the ability to regulate one’s thoughts and emotions.
Another change would be to make the schedule a little more managea- ble. I think our students do a lot here, and many do a lot very well; [but it] just keeps piling up. So [I would like it] if…[we can] find a way to have less of that pressure,…having to please everyone, and the expectation of doing so well all the time.
What are some things that students can do to relieve negative thoughts on their own?
This is actually something [we] counselors think [about] a lot. We have a board outside in the waiting room that talks about how you [can] change your thinking strategies and remember that emotions go up, but they also go back down. There will always be hard times, and it certainly [is difficult] when they do happen, but [they are] also temporary. Things will get better in the end, and you are never alone, even if you feel like it. You matter. Even though it may seem hard, [don’t] compare yourself to others. Even if one part of you isn’t seen the way you want to, that doesn’t mean that all of you is not ok.
What does the Health Center do to encourage students to use its resources?
We talk about counselors in the dorm and in [Human Development classes]. We want people to have a positive experience and to know that they can come [to the Health Center], but [that] there [are] also a lot of other adults on campus, too.
Even if you don’t have something really big to talk about, [you] can still come and talk. I just don’t [want] stu- dents to be left alone in their rooms with their thoughts and feelings, be- cause there is always a way to get help