60 Seconds can Change a Life: A Student’s Perspective on Reaching Out for Help
This article explores a student’s experience with weekly wellbeing check-ins and how they can be used to support students. The author provides insights into two staggeringly different student experiences, one where the wellbeing structures in the school were underdeveloped and a student fell through the cracks, and another where ei Pulse’s comprehensive wellbeing framework prevented another student’s experience from being similarly negative.
Like many students around the country, the transition from middle school to senior school was difficult for me. I left the support system I’d built in middle school and found myself surrounded by new teachers, greater academic pressures, and the break-up and rearranging of friendship groups that inevitably seems to happen in year 10.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve experienced a level of underlying anxiety and self-inflicted pressure to achieve academically. The new changes in the senior school added to my anxiety, however, they didn’t make it unmanageable at first. But each additional piece of school stress and anxiety was eating away at my capacity to deal with these issues. The most significant challenge to my wellbeing I faced wasn’t even school-related; I was in the process of being diagnosed with endometriosis, an experience that was not only physically painful but one that took a toll on my mental health.
I noticed that these feelings of anxiety were often worse in PE. My unpredictable physical health combined with a teacher I struggled to connect with made participating in the class incredibly difficult, and my struggle to participate in turn fueled my anxiety. All these little things built up – existing anxiety, change and uncertainty, physical pain, and poor performance in class – and suddenly, something that was once manageable turned into a big thing. Everything seemed to reach a tipping point when I was yelled at in front of my class following an anxiety attack, and publicly referred to the counselor’s office.
In this situation, I had no agency in how my feelings and issues were dealt with. I felt isolated from my peers, and my initial interactions with my PE teacher made seeking help at school seem like more hassle than it was worth. I wound up dealing with all these feelings alone. Looking back, part of my reluctance to seek help was born out of all the unknowns I faced. I didn’t know who to go to with a problem that didn’t just fit into a box like ‘academic’ or ‘mental health’ or ‘friendship troubles’. I didn’t know if information about my health struggles would be dealt with discreetly. The absence of accessible and secure help prevented me from dealing with the little things before they became big things, and my anxiety became worse as a result.
It feels almost surreal looking back at my experience, especially after seeing how technology has been used by my school to help students before issues become critical. Five or so months after my own situation had been resolved, my school had begun using weekly wellbeing check-ins. Thankfully, these check-ins were crucial in helping one of my close friends who was working through some serious issues in her own life. She too struggled with anxiety, but she was worried that if she sought help in the traditional way she wouldn’t be able to avoid the publicity that unfortunately characterised my experience.
Weekly wellbeing check-ins provided an avenue for her to connect with someone at school that she trusted while feeling comfortable and secure. Reaching out for help using technology ensured that she was operating within a familiar environment, and because of that she was able to communicate her feelings, and her teacher was able to respond. She had agency in how her issues were approached and the support she received, and together with the school, she was able to address her problems before they escalated and became uncontrollable.
The parallels between these experiences demonstrate just how much of a difference a comprehensive wellbeing support system makes for students who need help.
The assurance of discretion is the first thing students will look for. No one wants their personal life broadcasted to the student body. From my own experience, it’s embarrassing and overwhelming, to the point where it aggravates negative feelings.
It’s also important that students don’t feel fully responsible for initiating the conversation. Sometimes asking for help feels uncomfortable and unrealistic. Indicating that you’re struggling and knowing that your teacher will come to you, already prepared for what might be a difficult conversation, can remove the unknowns associated with asking for help that can intensify feelings of anxiety.
And finally, early intervention is absolutely essential. I allowed my anxiety to build and build and ultimately become overwhelming because I didn’t know when or how to ask for help. Teachers did eventually put measures in place to help me manage my physical health and anxiety, but only after everything had escalated. What I’ve seen weekly wellbeing check-ins do is get my friends the help they need when they need it, and enable teachers to support students in a way that is time sensitive, comprehensive, and empowering to the student.
The tool being referenced in this story is ei Pulse, a weekly wellbeing tool designed to help students find easier ways to ask for help, giving teachers real-time insights on those students, and helping school leaders globally uncover actionable insights into their school’s wellbeing and culture.
*The identity of the student has been kept confidential to preserve the security and privacy of the people involved in the story.