New peer-to-peer counseling support group created at DV


In order to address adolescents with anxiety, depression and other issues, the Dougherty Valley counseling department plans to create a student-run support group. By utilizing group therapy, the support group will allow DV students a forum to discuss personal problems confidentially while reducing the intimidating aspect of talking to an adult one-on-one.

The group is planned to meet regularly after school and hold open discussions where students can talk through difficult issues they may be facing. The counselor will be able to measure the changes in stress level in each student over a period of time in order to administer the proper help needed.

New Student Support Counselor Joe Ianora states it will give students an opportunity to both identify with those facing similar problems and just “let it out”. For many students, finding help for their mental health is difficult because of the stigmatizing beliefs about individuals with mental health problems.

For example, a 2010 study found that 46 percent of adolescents experienced stigmatization from family and 62 percent from peers at some point in their lives (Moses). The masses are often times ill-informed, sometimes considering mental health problems as self-inflicted or just negative in general (Crisp, Gelder, Rix, Meltzer et al.).

As counselor Mrs. Meagan Sellers explains, awareness for mental health is growing, but “kids don’t want to be seen as struggling.”

Dean Nick Tisa believes this is exactly the reason why students’ mental health is “not well”, because they “try to be the perfect DV student that doesn’t exist”.  He adamantly suggests that students seek help if they need support or guidance.

Ianora wishes to see a change in people’s mindsets about mental health in society.

“If there’s something wrong with your tooth, you go to a dentist”, he explains. “If you’re sick, you go to a doctor. But looking for any help for mental health is seen as a taboo.”

Dougherty Valley’s counseling department is more than willing to help students. As Sellers points out, matters discussed in private are strictly confidential, and requests for help can be sent through email or a note for students who may not want a direct confrontation.

“It’s more frustrating that kids don’t know there are people that can help. We can help communicate [students’] needs to teachers,” she stated.

Adolescence is a difficult transition for many teenagers. One in five adolescents has a diagnosable mental disorder (Schwarz, S. W), while about one in 12 (eight percent) have reported experiencing a major depressive episode (Rockville, MD).

More than half of all mental disorders and problems with substance abuse begin by age 14, and three-quarters of these difficulties begin by age 24 (Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R. & Walters, E. E).

This kind of academic stress has led to a student body where, as Ianora regards, “more than half could use some kind of help”.

If interested in attending the student support group, students should contact their assigned school counselor or Student Support Counselor Joe Ianora at [email protected].