By Mariel Gousios and Amanda Ojeda
We’ve heard it all before: “these are unprecedented times” and “take care of yourself during these difficulties.” It’s clear that this pandemic has affected us all, especially mentally. Social isolation can impact us deeply, making it hard to keep up with our mental health. There’s been a lot of talk on how we’ve been affected because of COVID-19, however, there hasn’t been as many conversations on how we can take steps to better these problems. Having methods to keep a good mental health is especially important in students, who have to balance their education with their personal lives. There’s multiple resources available to students within the East community, but it’s not always as well known as it should be. In addition to the school psychologist and social worker, students can look to the Sources of Strength club when in need.
Not only is Sources of Strength a universal organization dedicated to help students with suicide prevention, it’s also a club present in numerous schools, just like East. Philip Baillargeon, a Peer Leader within the club, described it as “a mental health advocacy club focused on promoting healthy habits in high school students.” There are eight main aspects of health that they focus on, such as Family Support, Positive Friends, Mentors, Healthy Activities, Generosity, Spirituality, Medical Access, and Mental Health. Sources of Strength are increasingly valuable during the pandemic. Philip believes one of the most important messages that the organization spreads is that “self care is not selfish, we take care of ourselves so we can help those around us”. He wants students to be reminded of the multiple kinds of support that they can take advantage of. To become a Peer Leader you must be nominated by a teacher who feels that you demonstrate kindness towards others, and that you should be given the opportunity to further serve your community. Peer Leaders within the club establish activities to “spread awareness, promote health, and collect donations toward charitable causes.” The activities they do work to promote unity throughout the school. However, they haven’t been able to do as many projects due to COVID-19.
Having been to the school before the pandemic during my freshman year (Amanda Ojeda), I was able to have seen some of the amazing work that the Sources of Strength team does. Their table is usually located in front of the guidance office and at the table they have available fun activities such as sending out thank you cards to teachers, writing positive messages, and poster signing. They also have held many school sponsored events to promote the East community. Nowadays since most of these events have been rendered unsafe, due to the high possibilities of spreading or contracting COVID-19, they have averted their attention to more safe forms of spreading the positive message. Many of you have already participated in them Since the Sources of Strength advisor Mr. Raskopf has been involved in Ally groups, providing the teachers and students with activities stimulating conversations about wellness and health during these times. These ally groups have been a safe place where students can destress or talk about any issues that have proven to obstruct their work ethic or overall cause negative feelings. In this way, ally groups have been a crucial part of student’s mental health and wellbeing.
In the situation that you feel you need guidance or advice, or even just have a simple conversation, we have two amazing people at East you can talk to. Ms. Kasprzak our school psychologist and Ms. Taberski our social worker, are always there if you need to have a conversation about anything that has been bothering you or want some support. Peer leader Philip Baillargeon also explained, “Especially now, in a time physically and socially divided, Sources of Strength’s promotion of community and accountability to each other is incredibly important.” During this day and age that has created the stigma or false beliefs about seeking help for your mental health, people often avoid going to therapists, psychologists, social workers, or anyone that can help you overcome personal struggles. The Sources of Strength team is ending the stigma by promoting health and wellness inducing a safe environment, and in doing so helping people both within our community and throughout the world.