Mental Health at Central Kitsap High School, How is it and Isn’t it Being Dealt With?

Mental health is a very important topic to talk about in the school setting, so how is Central Kitsap High School talking about it?

by Laney Lark, Reporter, Copy Editor

Mental health can go up and down and it is healthy for it to go up and down every now and then but for some it is difficult to reach out when their mental health issues become too much to handle. 

High school is a challenging time for most teenagers, their brains are slowly maturing and they are dealing with both adult problems and childhood problems at the same time. It becomes even harder when these teenagers do not know where to turn to or how to ask for help. 

Only “18% or fewer students felt that most students know healthy ways to cope with stress, available resources to help with mental health issues, and the signs of suicidal ideation.” 

The struggle that youth are having with mental health is not new and it is only increasing. The COVID-19 pandemic definitely has a play in this but is not the only factor. 

Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide — and rates have increased over the past decade.” 

At Central Kitsap High School there are a number of counselors for students to talk to including Katharine Harper who has been working at the school since October of 2021. 

I just love the idea of working with students, because not every student has access to a therapist, but to work in a school makes it a little bit easier for the public students that go there,” said Harper.

Ms. Harper outside her office. (Laney Lark)

According to many students at CKHS most of them do not even know that Harper is there for them. But she is always there to make an appointment with if a student needs someone to talk to confidentially. 

“We’re not raised in a way where we’re taught to take care of our mental health,” says Harper. “So sometimes you need to have someone to kind of teach you coping skills or how to recognize how your own thoughts are keeping you in a bad place.” 

It is important for most people, especially young adults, to be able to recognize when you are not doing well mentally and be able to have someone to talk through it with. That is why staff members such as Harper and other trustworthy teachers are so important to have in any school setting.  

“I just hope that everyone takes a moment to really think about how they’re doing,” says Harper. “Because it’s normal to deal with stress, like that’s gonna happen, especially when you’re in high school it’s a stressful time but when it just feels like it’s too much, then I really would hope that… they would just reach out and start that conversation with whoever.”

However some students feel that this is not enough and that our school needs to do better when it comes to helping their students get through a hard time. 

“I think the school sees mental health as another box to check off when it’s not,” says junior and former president of the Mental Health Awareness Club Adrie Starkenburg*.  “I think if the school wants to deal with mental health, there’s a lot of hard conversations, there’s a lot of heavy conversations and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Mental Health Awareness Club was a club at CKHS but had to disband before the second semester of the 2021-2022 school year due to the club just not knowing what to do and not having any guidance from staff, says Starkenburg. 

“I just feel like the school doesn’t deal with mental health,” says Starkenburg. “And I think that’s an issue. But I also think it’s an issue that they don’t want to and are not willing and maybe not ready to solve.”

Staff not knowing how to deal with mental health issues and not helping students reach out seems to be a common complaint from a lot of students and even other staff members. 

“I think if staff were more educated on what (mental health) means, what that looks like, and how to work with students that maybe have gone through trauma, like trauma informed care, you know, so that way they can kind of recognize what is more related to mental health,” said Harper.

Another common complaint from many students at CKHS, not just Starkenburg, is that they just do not feel that they have a good enough relationship with any teachers or staff members to have a real conversation about mental health with. Because of that, these students instead are silently struggling without any adult guidance if they do not have it already at home.

“I would like to say that you’re not alone,” said Harper. “I think a lot more people than we realize are silently struggling. I know it’s really scary to talk about these things, especially if you are from a background where there is more of a stigma. But I would say that people want to help, everyone deserves to take care of their mental health.” 

Mental health can drag down anyone no matter what. How a person feels is valid and they have a right to feel that way regardless of whatever their peers might think. But it is important to not stay that way and try to reach out for help when things get difficult. 

“It’s worth it even though it’s hard and kind of scary,” says Harper. “So just try to identify someone that makes you feel comfortable or that you trust. That’s an adult that you could talk to and see how they can help you and just tell them like ‘Hey, I think I need some help.’ And if there is nobody that you can think of I’m right here in room 2229, so you know, I’m also a resource.”

It is also important to note that as of July, 16th 2022 dialing the number ‘988’ in any state will directly route anyone to the national suicide hotline for mental health crisis.


*Adrie Starkenburg is a staff member of the Cougar Chronicle