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9 Questions with social work department chair Tiffany Myers

A conversation with social work department chair about mental health

Lindsey Burns

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Lindsey Burns: When a student comes to you, what should they expect?

Tiffany Myers: Students who walk into our office will be asked if this is an urgent matter that requires seeing someone immediately or if we can set up an appointment and send for them.  The student will then meet one on one with a social worker where confidentiality laws will be discussed before having a conversation.  Sometimes there is a waiting list to see a social worker and it may be a few weeks before the request can be accommodated.

L.B.: What happens when somebody comes to you to talk about another person?

T.M.: This really depends on the situation.  If there is a situation where the other person is potentially in imminent danger, the social worker will follow up with that person immediately.  If there is no imminent danger, the social worker will strategize with the person who came in on the best ways to help the friend.

L.B.: What do you suggest to kids who are afraid to get help?

T.M.: Some students who are nervous to seek help will come in initially with a friend or trusted teacher.  This often helps people get past the initial anxiety of seeking help.

L.B.: How can somebody tell if their friends aren’t doing well?

T.M.: Typically friends notice behavior that is out of the ordinary more quickly than adults in their life.  It is important to tell friends what you are noticing and ask if everything is okay.  Keep an eye out for major concerns with daily behavior like changes in eating, sleeping, socialization/isolation, hygiene, etc.  These tend to be more major red flags.

L.B.: What do you suggest for students to stay mentally healthy?

T.M.: It is important to get enough sleep and to set a schedule that allows for down time during stressful periods of time. Everyone should also make sure they have someone they trust to talk to during challenging times.

L.B.: What do you suggest to prevent anxiety in school?

T.M.: Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience and it has an important role.  It is when anxiety gets out of control that it is concerning.  It will help students to be reflective about what is causing them anxiety.  Is their schedule too full and it is impossible to keep up?  Are constant social pressures creating anxiety and they might need to take a break from their phone during the school day?  (I realize most students will say this is impossible but the social information coming in through a smart phone all day long can have a significant impact on anxiety.)

L.B.: Do you tell a student’s parents if he/she see you?

T.M.: Students over age 13 can see a social worker up to five times without parental consent under the mental health code.

L.B.: Why do so many people feel ashamed about seeking help?

T.M.: Despite strong efforts to reduce stigma, it still exists.  I think that students are surprised to hear that 20% of all students see a school social worker at some time during their high school experience.

L.B.: How do you know when drinking becomes more than a social thing?

T.M.: Using alcohol under age 21 is illegal and, in that respect, it is always a concern.  There are also a number of markers that determine when a student’s drinking is moving into the range of abuse and dependence.  Students who are interested in having an assessment to discuss concerns around alcohol use should visit the social work office or student assistance office.

L.B.: When can students see the therapists at school?

T.M.: Free periods and lunch unless it is a major emergency.

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The student news site of New Trier High School.
9 Questions with social work department chair Tiffany Myers