What I wish my teacher knew: many students struggle with anxiety

By Brooke Swinehart

Mrs. Gail Ulmer is one of the counselors available to assist students who are struggling.
Mrs. Gail Ulmer is one of the counselors available to assist students who are struggling.

Penn Points recently surveyed Penn Manor students to ask what they wish their teachers knew about them. Participation was voluntary and anonymous and included students from all grade levels. Here are some responses:

“I have panic attacks because of school sometimes.”

“ That I’m severely depressed and I have a hard time getting work done on time.”

“How bad my anxiety and depression affect me sometimes.”

Notice the similarities?

Out of the students who responded, 27 percent mentioned struggling with stress, schoolwork, anxiety and depression.

“We’re seeing much more of school avoidance and anxiety within the past two to three years,” said guidance counselor Mrs. Gail Ulmer.

Anxiety and depression are difficult topics to cover considering many individuals don’t know how to start the conversation.  Removing the stigma of mental illness is something not only necessary for Penn Manor, but as a community.

“One third of the students I see are struggling with anxiety or some form of mental health distress. All of these we see regularly and we’re not surprised when it comes up,” said guidance counselor Mrs. Melissa Ostrowski.

“How much stress seniors are under, ALL THE TIME.”

“That not everyone has a good home life, before you label someone as a “druggy” maybe consider they use that to cope.”

“How to handle the personal hardships of students.”

Papers that are available to students in the counseling office.
Resources that are available to students in the counseling office.

“Everybody is struggling, and nobody is talking about it.” said Tere Villibrandt, who is a therapist at Samaritan Counseling Center and screens Penn Manor freshman for signs of depression.

Students can always schedule an appointment to talk to a counselor for any reason. There are different documents available to students in the counseling office concerning topics like depression, anxiety, self harm, substance abuse and eating disorders.

“They don’t have an adult to talk to,” said Mrs. Ostrowski, explaining what she commonly hears from students that concerned her. “The older I get, and the more I grow as a person, I wish every single kid had one caring adult to talk to. We all need that in this world. It’s only natural that that kid would experience insecurities and anxieties.”

The responses that were received should show students and others in the community that they, in fact, are not alone, and other individuals feel the same way.

“Students can be more comfortable with it to understand that everybody at some point in their lives experiences anxiety and experiences depression. That it’s normal, to talk about it but not make it a small thing. I say normalizing without minimizing” said Villibrandt.