Glowing fairy lights shine down upon a friendly room. A kitten climbs on a cozy sofa, while art and meditation resources adorn the walls. Crisis hotlines and ways to set up appointments with a counselor are within easy reach. This is Palo Alto High School’s virtual Wellness Center.
Although the on-campus Wellness Center is unavailable, the Wellness Team is still actively providing resources for everyone during the pandemic. With plenty of online outreach, the team continues its practice of checking in on students and being an accessible source for well-being.
For the Wellness Team, student outreach remains just as important as before. Access to therapists, counselors and psychologists for more targeted support are made readily available through Google Forms and Zoom drop-in hours.
These resources have been helpful to many students. According to a report given at a PAUSD School Board meeting on Oct. 27, within the first nine weeks of school, the Wellness Center carried out 141 therapy sessions and 41 formal wellness referrals. Although these numbers are slightly below last year’s numbers, they are significant given the completely different circumstances.
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“What I miss the most is just getting to check in with someone, see how their day is going and knowing that they have a safe space,” Wellness Outreach Worker Whitney Aquino said.
Another challenge the team faces is the inability to directly reach students. Before, a student could walk into the Wellness Center and have a spontaneous meeting. Now, prior communication is a must.
“So a lot of it [the process of setting up meetings] is very student-driven,” Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator Elizabeth Spector said. “Once we reach out, students have to reciprocate and then we’ll send the link and it takes more initiative.”
Despite the obstacles of not having a physical Wellness Center, transitioning online has allowed for a new set of students to reach out for help. Some students who weren’t as comfortable asking for help in person have found the online format to be more approachable.
“I felt like it’s more intimidating to actually go to the Tower Building and talk to the person there and set up a meeting,” junior Ashley Qiu said. “Whereas through the digital format — through just a signup form — you can get paired up with one of the coordinators and from there, you can talk it out and set up a meeting.”
Although many aspects are unfamiliar, the Wellness Center hopes to provide a safe space for students.
“No issue or anything is too small,” Aquino said. “They’re [students are] more than welcome to talk to someone and check in with someone. We’re here and available. The Wellness Center is a free, confidential resource of really wonderful people who are just here to listen without judgment and support students in any way that they can.”
If there is a serious and immediate safety concern, please call 9-1-1 or PAPD at 650-329-2413.
- 24/7 Crisis Help Lines and Text Line:
- Crisis Text Line – Text HELLO to 741741
- Youth and Teen Suicide and Crisis Hotline 888-247-7717
- Santa Clara County Suicide and Crisis Hotline 855-278-4204
- RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE
- Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQ+ 24/7 1-866-488-7386
- Trevor Text TREVOR to 1-202-304-1200 M-F noon-7PM Pacific Time
Other mental health resources:
- Suicide prevention lifeline
- The Trevor Project
- CASSY (Counseling & Support Services for Youth)
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
- Bill Wilson Center
- Santa Clara Behavioral Health Call Center
- The Gronowski Center
- Asian Americans for Community Involvement