Mental Health Awareness Month: What To Say

Being a school counselor is not only about scheduling classes, preparing for graduation, or planning for college. More and more, I find myself dealing with students who experience anxiety, depression, or suicidal ideation. By no means am I a psychologist or psychiatrist to offer behavioral therapy or counseling, but I am someone on the school campus my students know they can come to when they "just don't feel right".

Some of my students are already under care of a mental health professional, so they know I am their support at school when they just need to talk or need a "time out" from class. For others, I am the first person they've ever opened up to about their cutting, their self-defeating thoughts, their feelings of being alone, their helplessness, their thoughts of "not wanting to be here anymore".

Many of us have encountered friends and/or family who may have displayed signs of mental illness. According to Mental Health America, some of these signs maybe:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged sadness or irritability
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Strange thoughts (delusions)
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations)
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
What can you do to help if you have a friend or family member dealing with mental illness?

What can you say? 

✔You are not alone, I am here.
✔I'm here to listen.
✔I care about you.
✔What can I do to help?
✔Let me find someone who can help you
-You can speak to a school psychologist or school counselor for resources. 
-They can also see their primary care doctor to share their concerns. Offer to accompany them if they would like.
-If emergency medical care is needed, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. 

All of these professionals are trained to help those dealing with mental illness. is an excellent resource for those living in San Diego County.

It is important to know if you or someone you care about is in crisis and needs immediate help, you can also call the Crisis Hotline at (888) 724-7240. The phone lines are answered by trained professionals available 24/7; the call is free and confidential.