The Student News Site of Mount Greylock Regional High School

The Greylock Echo

The Student News Site of Mount Greylock Regional High School

The Greylock Echo

The Student News Site of Mount Greylock Regional High School

The Greylock Echo

How Mount Greylock is Addressing the Mental Health Crisis

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, overall mental wellness for teenagers has declined dramatically. In 2022, according to the World Health Organization, the pandemic triggered a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide. 

In response to COVID, “the Federal Government, through the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, funneled a good deal of money to school districts across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts [for] students’ support,” district superintendent Jason McCandless said. The district has used some of that money to support student mental health by hiring more personnel, such as social worker Gustavo Garo. 

Mount Greylock currently has two social workers, three school counselors and one psychologist, all located in the Counseling Office. This, according to middle school guidance counselor Peter “PJ” Pannesco, “is the most that we’ve ever had.”

Garo and Keith Jones are the two social workers currently employed here at Mount Greylock. They work with students, individually and in small groups, to try to improve their mental health. They also teach the social emotional learning class at the school.

“We deal with individuals with some symptoms of anxiety, some depression. Some people self harm, so we tend to deal with that,” Jones said. “I always tell students, ‘Hey, I’m here to help guide you.’”

The social workers also help students by “connecting them with outside resources, making those connections with therapists, maybe groups in the community, virtual health systems, medication prescribers,” Jones said. 

“There aren’t a lot of [open] therapists in our area,” Pannesco said. “There are a lot of therapists but they’re all full. There’s a long waiting line, typically.”

He added, “We have some outside agencies come in and do small group work with students. But sadly the people in those agencies are there for a while and then they go on to something else. That’s unfortunate, because I think a lot of times kids really enjoy talking to somebody outside the school. It’s a third party that you can let it all out to because you don’t have to see [them] again for another week.”

Another great resource in the guidance office is Dr. Geri O’Brien, the school psychologist. O’Brien largely works doing testing for special education. “I also see students for social skills,” she said. “I work with the social workers to triage counseling for students who come to the counseling office and need to see somebody to process their concerns.”

In order to visit the counseling office, students can go down and schedule an appointment during the school day with Bridget Balawender, the administrative assistant.

“If [students] see us in the hall, you can always ask us to stop by the counseling office and request to speak to someone,” Garo said.

“If you need something,” Jones said, “it’s great to say something.” 

He added, “My one piece of advice is take a little time for you each day. You could be reading a book for a little bit. Watch your favorite TV show. Go listen to your favorite music. Go for a walk.”

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Frances Evans, Staff Writer

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