High school freshman discusses struggles with mental health during the pandemic

Posted at 11:03 AM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 14:09:45-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Amid the pandemic, many students are struggling with mental health.

Ridgeview High School freshman Zairrah Brown said in December, she tried to harm herself. She said her sister found her before it was too late.

"When you're alone you feel like no one sees you, no one cares so I might as well end it all,” Brown said. “It's really hard to get those thoughts out of your head."

March is Social Worker Month. The Kern High School District’s lead social worker Kim Reynolds said her team has been more house calls than ever before due to a lack of student engagement during distance learning.

"Students that were struggling with school pre-pandemic, let's say due to social anxiety, are now doing well staying at home and in that virtual environment,” Reynolds said. “Those doing well pre-pandemic are now struggling, due to that social isolation."

Brown said she was admitted into the hospital for four days after talking to a therapist. She said it was there she realized she had something to live for.

"In the hospital, I was helping the other kids. They were listening to me, I was giving them advice on what to do and how to calm down,” she said. “I think it's good that I started Youtube to help those kids, you know, coming from a peer still going through it, and trying to get through it. We can all get through it together."

One of the practices Brown said helps her is a distraction technique called the ABC game.

"You pick a topic and list things that make you happy. So for example, "A" art makes me happy. For "B" my grandpa's name is Ben and he makes me happy,” she said.

KHSD Director of Student Behavior and Support Brian Mediburu said they have resources available virtually until KHSD transitions into in-person learning.

"When you think of school psychologists, mental health clinicians, and social workers, as being three mental health professionals on each campus--plus counselors and behavior interventionist staff,” he said. “We want students to know they are not alone, the supports are there, and we can obviously follow up with action plans that are meaningful and very student specific."

Some of those action plans include virtual small groups, house calls, home visits, email and texts.

Some practices that can help with depression and anxiety Reynolds says is limiting social media to a couple times a day, especially before bed, self-care, breathing techniques and exercise.

"Many people are feeling the same way they're feeling, so communicating their worries and listening to others divides the burden and increases connection,” she said.

KHSD has begun training and discussing what in-person mental health resources could look like before students in April and May.

Meanwhile, things are looking up for Brown who said she is engaged in socially distanced cheer practices with members of her squad at the park.

If you are struggling or know of a student struggling with mental health, you can find resources here.