By Sarah Fader
Can a Guidance Counselor help a teen? The truth is, I don’t know. From my experience with mental illness, I don’t remember a guidance counselor actually helping me. What I do remember is suffering from mental illness including panic attacks, depression, suicidal ideation and passive suicidal thoughts. I don’t know if that’s redundant. I spent four years in high school being terrified of leaving my house and go to school but I did it anyway.
I didn’t feel comfortable disclosing my deepest darkest secrets.
At no time during this period of my life did I think that reaching out to guidance counselor was something that could help me. I associated this person with filling out college applications and things of that nature. I didn’t feel comfortable disclosing my deepest darkest secrets to that person.
The part of myself that was depressed was scary to come to terms with.
I wanted to be able to be myself but the part of myself that was depressed was scary to come to terms with. I couldn’t shower for days, couldn’t eat without throwing up and couldn’t tell anyone but my mom what was going on. Even my close group of friends didn’t know or understand the level of pain I was in.
I didn’t want to feel anything so sitting in a guidance counselor’s office was out of the question.
I wanted to tell people, I promise you, but talking to a teacher or guidance counselor seemed like it wasn’t safe somehow. It was out of the realm of possibility. I want people to understand that it wasn’t that I didn’t want help. I wanted to feel better. I wanted this pain to go away, but I also didn’t want to exist. I didn’t want to feel anything so sitting in a guidance counselor’s office was out of the question.
They don’t want to reveal their innermost secrets for fear of being vulnerable and exposed.
Why is it that teens don’t trust guidance counselors? Because teens are afraid to trust adults at all. Not all teenagers, but teenagers who have been through trauma, who associate adults with pain or distrust. Those people are terrified to let their feelings out in an office with an adult. They don’t want to reveal their innermost secrets for fear of being vulnerable and exposed.
Let it be a place where the teen feels comfortable talking about anything
What can guidance counselors do to help them? They can be there. That’s one thing. Let their office be a safe space to be themselves. Let it be a place where the teen feels comfortable talking about anything from their love of paper airplanes or cats to sexual abuse and feeling suicidal. Guidance counselors have the opportunity to make a difference in young people’s lives: take that opportunity, seize it and help people.
What do you wish your guidance counselor had done differently? Was there a guidance counselor who actually helped you? Tell us about it.