SOS offers mental health support for Carlmont students


Depression-Anxiety-Behavior-Disorders-chart/ Center for Disease Control and Prevention/ Public Domain

Mental illness is a widespread struggle with teens. Diagnoses skyrocket in high school aged students.

Late nights, coffee, blue light, and, far too often, tears. This is a routine all too familiar for high school students. A routine that’s become even more regular recently.

Under the current circumstances, the school environment may be exhausting to many students, and seeking help can pose a great challenge.

Carlmont’s social support group, Students Offering Support (SOS), has moved online to weekly Zoom calls, available to any student who is interested.

“This group has helped me find a family that I’ve been able to lean on throughout,” said Alex Nyholm-Goncalves, a Carlmont senior and SOS president. “Just finding other people that were also struggling made me feel like there was a family that I could talk to, and we can all get through it together.”

Asking for help or beginning to open up can be a large obstacle for students struggling with stress and mental health. Admitting one needs support can be difficult for various reasons, and SOS members can empathize. 

“Just coming from personal experience, it can be difficult to reach out for help in high school, especially when in your past, you may have been judged for trying to do so.” said junior and SOS member Austin Yip. “It can really set the mindset that asking for help is a bad thing, and it makes you weak. And I feel like this community… It does help people to open up. And I feel like it does teach that asking for help, it’s not bad because we all need it, and we all should request it.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression and anxiety diagnoses are more common with increased age. As of June 2020, the CDC finds that 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety, and 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. Mental illnesses, whether severe or mild, are widespread among teens. Taking action to find support is an important part of overcoming the turmoil, and SOS encourages students to take advantage of the group as a first step.

“There is a resource there for you. And I think that this group really just helps students kind of realize that there is a place, and it is a first step,” said Nyholm-Goncalves. “If you come here and you realize ‘Okay, I’m not alone. I can actually ask for help.’, you’ll end up getting more help, and you’ll end up getting better overall a lot faster than if you try and do it by yourself.”

In addition to support for mental health, the SOS group offers a safe social space. Group members urge freshmen to join to connect with and meet other Carlmont students under distance learning.

“I enjoy SOS because I started my freshman year, you know, with COVID on the computer… I came to SOS to meet people and to see if anyone else was going through what I was going through.” said freshman Sofia Sawacki. “I would recommend it […]   It is a good community, and I think everyone’s really kind in here. And it’s nice to meet people.”

SOS is for students, by students, and is open to every Carlmont student. Whether seeking out support for depression and anxiety, needing to complain, or just looking for some new friends, SOS welcomes you with open arms.

“It came about because of COVID and social distancing, and kids losing that connection with others. It’s a whole different learning experience,” said SOS supervisor and school counselor Shelley Bustamante. “Some of them feel the teachers were giving a ton of homework, and others just feeling depressed and lonely and wanting to talk to people. And so we came together to do this group.”

The SOS social group is a drop-in weekly Zoom call every Wednesday at 3:30 P.M. To receive the Zoom invite, email Ms. Bustamante ([email protected]) or group president Alex Nyholm-Graves ([email protected]).  

“Our group is an opportunity for kids to just connect,” said Bustamante. “No matter what grade they’re in, and no matter what their experiences are because there’s always commonalities.”

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