Mental health specialists bring support to schools through community

Mayo High School hosts its first mental health week.
Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 5:39 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Rates of anxiety and depression in teens is on the rise, but one local high school is looking to not only bring awareness to this issue but also provide support through conversation and community.

Mayo High School (MHS) is hosting its first mental health week. The week is full of hands-on activities and speakers, and it’s all about learning to develop healthy coping strategies when it comes to mental health concerns.

For the past four years, MSH has been running its Teens Offering Peer Support room or TOPS.

“So if a student wants to come into this room, we’re open all periods of the day. They can talk to a peer supporter, just be listened to and be able to express how they’re feeling and have a listening ear. They’re also may be able to just take a break if they’re feeling anxious and then go back to class in hopefully a better state of mind,” Mayo High School student resilience specialist Amanda Burget said.

Burget, along with her team of student peer supporters, visit with around 100 kids a day, talking about their feelings or doing hands-on activities.

“We want student to not only resort to their phone. It may be an easy go-to, but what can we do besides that that’s using their hands, that’s creating, that’s working with other people, that’s building community,” Burget said.

Monday, the therapy dog Lola who works throughout Rochester Public Schools paid a visit to the TOPS room and she was a hit.

“She’s so fluffy and she’s so cute. She’s so gentle and nice,” MHS junior Wascaka Davenport said.

“She was pretty great. She’s a cute dog, and I think it’s awesome that the TOPS room is bringing in all these therapy animals for us and students. It’s nice to have,” MHS senior Ethan Kramer said.

While cases of mental health problems in teens are on the rise, school mental health specialists say teens are also more willing to talk about it.

“Students are generally not afraid to come to this room. They know it’s for everybody. That’s something we continue to work on. That students know everyone is welcome here,” Burget said.

“I think it’s better just to open up to someone rather than just keep it inside,” MHS sophomore Arianna Burks said.

The goal of the TOPS room is to start a conversation and come up with way to cope with mental health issues.

“Trying to get them help with it, trying to get them talking about it where it doesn’t become something that continues to follow them. Then we can also learn how to deal with some of those tough emotions,” Burget said.

Also, part of mental health week, the school is hosting a donation drive for Southeast Regional Crisis Center and Von Wold in Rochester. The organization is looking for art supplies, notebooks and new adult clothing donations. Students can drop off items at the TOPS room or at door six outside MHS.