Schools are understaffed in guidance counselors across the province.
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My name is Riley Ennis, I am 14 years old and I'm a student at William Mercer Academy in the town of Dover. There have been many tragedies happening recently across the island, these tragedies include teens as young as 14 years old committing suicide and it has caused a lot of grief and despair among the public, especially teens. It has negatively impacted a lot of students, making them feel worthless, making them question why they are alive, which is something no one should ever wonder. As a student in today's society, I feel that schools are understaffed in Guidance Counselors across the province and that is a major problem. The recent tragedies had a huge impact on students in my school, as well as surrounding schools and the students feel like they don't have anyone to talk to due to the lack of guidance counselors.
As a student, I know Guidance Counselors in schools are essential. There are many personal reasons a student would need to talk to the Guidance counselor. Some of these reasons include: Students that have trouble with their sexual orientation, drug/substance abuse, alcohol abuse, Physical and Mental abuse, many mental illnesses, and even being scared about these tragedies. All of these issues are serious and students need to be able to talk about it with someone. The lack of guidance counselors make it very hard for a student to trust someone who is a stranger to them with personal stuff. William Mercer Academy, along with many other schools, get a different guidance counselor every year, this makes it even harder to get comfortable and talk with the counselor and trust them with personal stuff. When students feel like there is no safe environment to talk about these issues, tragedies happen. Even though our teachers want to help us, they don't have the training or qualifications to do so. The tragedies are also bringing a lot of emotions and thoughts which could be and should be talked about as a group.
In Newfoundland the average guidance counselor to Student ratio is 1:500. One Guidance Counselor is supposed to council 500 students, there is no possible way they could remember every problem of every student who visits them, the guidance counselor would just end up asking the same questions over and over every visit. Many Guidance counselors are assigned to multiple schools, such as my Guidance Counselor who is assigned to three schools – William Mercer Academy, Centerville Academy, and Jane Collins Academy; that is two sets of Junior High students, 2 sets of Intermediate students and a high school, which gives the counselor an average of one and a half days a week in each school and just because the guidance counselor is in the building, doesn't mean she is available. Some students may not have the strength to wait another week to talk to the counselor, maybe they need to talk to them now, or it will be too late. There are also guidance counselors who teach classes so if a student needs to talk it cant be during class time. Some Guidance Counselors are assigned to five schools, one day a week at each school, and traveling between schools will take up most of the time.
After these tragedies happen the school board sends out counselling teams to the school in the town of the tragedy for the students who have been affected but only for a few days after the tragedy. The counselling teams consist of counselors from schools in the area, and one or more educational psychologist from the school board region. When our counselors are dealing with tragedies in other schools, the students from their own school(s) get nothing. Guidance Counselors are worn out trying to help as many students as they possibly can. As a province – The government, school board, teachers, parents and even the students need to be proactive not reactive when it comes to these tragedies. We need to have the counselors before the tragedies happen to help prevent them, instead of showing up after to help cope with them. Students and parents also need to know how to cope with and help people that have mental health issues so they can help prevent tragedies. From the information I have gathered, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death amongst 10-19 year olds in canada. Males account for 41% of 10-14 year old suicides, increasing to 70% of 15-19 year olds. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, an estimated 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness disorder, and only 1 in 5 children who need mental health services recieve them.
As a student I strongly believe that receiving more guidance counselors, keeping them for a longer time period, and being able to see them any day we need to is a start to help reduce the tragedies that have been happening. Students should not feel like they cant talk to anyone. We should not be scared that our friend will decide to end their lives and most importantly we as students should not feel worthless and question our existence. No one deserves to lose their life because of these issues no matter what their age is. As a province we need to put a stop to these tragedies before they get any worse. We need more mental health resources; starting with more guidance counselors.
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