Open Letter: “They don’t care about our mental health”—or do they really?

The disconnect between students and counseling offices is not what you think.

By Anonymous Student

On January 20th, a letter directed towards the ABCUSD school district was posted on Instagram.

“This is not the first time you have heard of our struggles.” the author argues. “We have been shown time and time again no matter the uproar, no matter the student support, what we do or say is never enough to ignite change… Do not expect us to give this meager attempt of an education any more of our time and effort when we have been granted so little of your[s] in the past.”

Within 48 hours, that message went viral. Fellow seniors from Cerritos High School flooded the comments with “thank you”s, “preach”s, and endless words of support. Reposts on others’ stories encouraged others to check it out for themselves, and even teachers from the school have brought it up in their classes. 

Inspired by a similar post by a student from Norco High School, senior Kyli Joe criticized teacher and administration unresponsiveness to students’ grievances. In addition to lack of good counseling, a series of events ranging from unhandled sexual abuse cases to incidents of racism reported at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement has, according to Joe, revealed the district’s true colors. What strikes here as the biggest discussion, however, is the perceived attitude towards mental health. 

‘Mental health’. It’s become a big discussion these days, with younger generations fighting on its behalf. One’s state of mind should be taken care of in much the same way their state of body is, and that’s an important conversation to have. That’s not where the problem lies. In actuality, some counselors are trying to actively encourage this… except that no one pays attention.

Under @chsdonscounseling on Instagram, Cerritos’ counseling department posts resources not just for college help, but also for mental health. Beginning in November, they’ve hosted monthly workshops according to national dedication—for example, December being ABC Suicide Prevention Month, February being National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and so on and so forth. Despite over 2200 students attending Cerritos High School, the account only has 153 followers, which as of today does not include Joe. That’s a sliver of a fraction of the student population. Considering the patterns in social media interaction, only a fraction of that fraction frequently interacts with these posts. 

Just how many students are actually attending these workshops? The most likely answer is little to none. 

Arguably, there are individuals in the counseling department that have had a history of failing to respond to their students. To some, it would seem as though they are only stirred to action if one of their students is part of an influential organization at the school—one whose advisor would be an onslaught to deal with. Word spreads quickly about bad faculty in student circles, and with every rumor that sparks aflame is another wildfire of distrust towards counselors. As a result, workshops like these are believed to be useless attempts with no real impact. For counselors who actually try, they’re automatically disadvantaged by this perception that the school has of them, making it harder to garner an audience.

Critics of Joe’s letter also beg to differ. Some of her opening statements claim that students don’t go to school for the classes, but for the social life. “She discredits her argument by saying that school is for seeing friends and not learning,” says one senior, who chooses to remain anonymous. “You can’t say ‘school bad, teachers bad’ when you’re not even showing up to school with the intent to learn.” If students don’t give teachers their attention, how can they expect reciprocation? Others who agree say that students are just complaining that they aren’t able to have fun in an institution that doesn’t prioritize fun to begin with. The winner, winner, chicken dinner of it all is that with all the ‘complaining’ this post does, it doesn’t actually propose a solution.

Whether seen from the eyes of a supporter or not, the truth of the matter is that the current institution is built on a foundation of mistrust. When students beg for mental health resources but don’t use the ones they’re given, there may be more at play than just the failures of the American education system. How one reconnects students and counselors in a fragmented community is anyone’s guess, and in the address that took the media by storm is a cry for much needed change.

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