Mental health pandemic

There is another pandemic currently ravaging the United States. It is teen mental health and Tim Mckean offers solutions to a devastating issue.


An image of freshman guidance counselor Tim McKean

Sean Saunders, Staff Writer

     According to the CDC, “More than 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, a 40 percent increase since 2009”

     This statistic is probably shocking to many. And unfortunately the hopelessness many felt at the time in 2019, has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. 

      Many people wonder what they can do to combat the current mental health crisis in America. 

     Tim McKean is a freshman guidance counselor who answered a set of five questions on student mental health at GOHS.

Q: How can students get help if they need it?

A: “We have 10 counselors at GlenOak and then we have two counselors from Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health. There is a counseling center in the upper C wing and within the freshman wing, we have three counselors. So as far as ‘how do I find it?’ you can go to any office within the school and we can get you connected with some support from a counselor. As far as an outside agency? Presuming you want to go see a mental health professional outside of school then we have referral forms for multiple different agencies around Stark County.”

Q: How can students balance schoolwork and their own mental health?

A: “Everything in life is a balance. And that will go on forever. School is difficult because you might have times where you have no homework, and other times when you have to study for a test in every single class (like the end of the semester). So, everything ebbs and flows. There’s times where we have a real stockpile of stress and work, and other times where we don’t. But in general, as we average things out I think a good rule of thumb should be, to maintain a healthy balance. Whatever grade you’re in, if you multiply that by 10, that’s about on average how many minutes per day you should have of school work outside of school. So if you’re in 9th grade, 90 minutes; 10th grade, 100 minutes. And if you have a study hall there is 90 minutes right there. So, in theory, you shouldn’t have to work at home. Now again, there’s times when you’re going to have much more than that, and times when you have zero. So take this as an average of what it is, or what it should be in a healthy balance.”

Q: What effects has COVID-19 had on students’ mental health?

A: “This is now the third school year that has been disrupted by the pandemic. We’re definitely getting on the other side of it, which is good, but now the lingering effects come in. The priorities I have now may not be the same priorities I had two and a half years ago. What I value has changed. We see that in a lot of ways. Employment, people taking time off, people taking time for themselves. But also, a lot of people went from being a student, being in school in March of 2020, to one day being told you don’t have to be in school anymore. We have not adapted to this. We didn’t know exactly what to do. We patchworked together schoolwork for the next couple of months till the end of the year. Then, a lot of people did online school last year. Finally, coming back this year. So, a lot of people were out of school for 18 months. Each without anyone telling them what to do, when to do it, or how to do it. So when they came back it was just like boom, boom, boom, follow the rules, do this, do that. That’s brutal on people. And how do we adapt to that? It’s hard. I see it everyday. I see it in alot of people, adults, and kids struggling with how to balance a routine and go back to a world of ‘I fall in line, I do this, and then I go home’ instead of ‘Nah I’m just going to do what I want’ Not everybody but just in general I see that. And I see it in adults too who work from home”

Q: What advice do you give to people with friends who are struggling with mental health?

A: “The big advice I give people is that it is not your responsibility to fix or cure someone’s mental health concerns. The number one thing we have to do in life is that we have to be good for ourselves. We have to be healthy for ourselves. Only then, can we be better for somebody else. But we have to take care of ourselves first. So when we have a friend that is really struggling, a lot of times we bear the burden, and we put the weight on ourselves, by saying ‘I have to try to help this person. Because, I’m the only one who can help them.’ We can’t live our lives that way. It’s too difficult to live our lives that way. Really our only responsibility is to be a good friend. When we have a friend who is battling a mental health issue asking them ‘Is there anything you need right now?’ Let them tell you what they need and also ask you ‘What do you need from me?’ ‘How can I help you?’ ‘How can I support you?’ And listen, you don’t need to fix things. Obviously, if there is a serious concern, your responsibility is being a good friend, right? Get them help, tell an adult, tell your parents. If someone late at night tells you something, tell an adult, or go to the Say Something app, call 911. You know whatever you have to do. Sometimes just listening. But it is not your responsibility to fix them or change their life. Instead just ‘Hey you wanna hang out?’ ‘You wanna come over?’ ‘Wanna talk?’ That’s all that we can do.”

Q: What do you recommend for people who want to get help but are afraid of talking to adults about it?

A: “Luckily, nowadays there are so many different ways and outlets of communication. Yeah, it used to be, yeah I had to go straight to an adult and ask them for help. Or, I had to write them a letter and hand it to them. Well, now their email, the Say Something App, now theirs ‘hey maybe I talk to a trusted friend’ Maybe, if a trusted friend has a good relationship with an adult, maybe they can help start the process. Sometimes getting an adult involved. I know there will be kids I’ve never talked to before, but maybe I have a close relationship with their friend. So, their friend will come and say ‘Hey I got a friend that’s kind of struggling right now, would it be okay if I brought them down sometime?’ And I say ‘Sure, bring them down’ My biggest recommendation is, we can’t read minds. So, if a student is struggling I might not know it. At some point they have to be able to communicate with me. And there are so many different ways they can do that. It doesn’t have to be coming in, and sitting down, and having a counseling session. It could just be ‘Shoot me an email’ ‘Talk to a friend’ Or say something else and say ‘Hey I need help with something’ And then let us handle it from there.”