Rosary High School Hosts Talks On Adolescent Mental Health
By Patricia SzPekowski, Observer Correspondent
April 21, 2022
AURORA—Mental health and disorders have increasingly surfaced as a top issue for increased awareness, everywhere. Understanding and addressing the mental health of high school students has become an even greater priority as they are pressured to strive and achieve more and more.
Rosary High School in Aurora, a college-preparatory high school for young women, recognizes this critical need of supporting its students and has provided a variety of programs to help.
“I believe many of us attempt to impress others; maybe colleges, parents, siblings,” said Madison Briden, a senior at the school. “This competition is healthy to a point, but can lead to extremely high anxiety and stress levels. I also believe many teenagers deal with this through their relationships and friendships with others. 
“So, when the pandemic hit and I was not allowed to be with my friends, my anxiety and stress skyrocketed. 
“However, I think that Rosary did a great job of addressing these issues in the last year or so, especially throughout the pandemic,” she said.
Recently, the school held two separate presentations on mental health for students and parents.
The focus for students was making mental health a priority. The parent presentation focused on transitioning to a post-pandemic world and how parents can help their adolescents become strong, responsible and mature young adults.
Dr. Patricia Francis, O.P., a licensed clinical psychologist and director of counseling services for the Central DuPage Pastoral Counseling Center, led the presentations. At Rosary High School, she is known as Sister Pat, a Springfield Dominican Sister, the religious order that sponsors the school.
Each of Sister Pat’s presentations offered a vast wealth of information and guidance from the basics such as “what is mental health;” the importance of life balance; how stress triggers mental illness in teens and young adults; warning signs; and ways to manage stress.
“Good mental health is not wishing for what isn’t,” said Sister Pat, “but coping with what is!”
Somber information was presented. A majority of mental illnesses starts between the ages of 14 and 24 years old when young adults are in school; suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses; one-third of teens suffer from depression or anxiety at some time; stress triggers mental illness in teens and young adults. These issues can be triggered by anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and substance abuse.
Many habits contribute to stress and risk for depression, like perfectionism, poor posture, guilt, lack of exercise, overuse of social media and smartphones, and poor sleep, to name a few.
Parents were asked to address their children’s sleep issues. Kids not getting enough sleep have a greater problem with attention and memory, make poorer decisions, and show increased hyperactivity. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns 60% of middle school and 73% of high school students are experiencing sleep deprivation. 
Students responded to the presentation. “I knew I felt stressed but often didn’t know why,” said one sophomore student. “I didn’t realize how much lack of sleep was a factor.”
The facts hit home with parents too. 
“Dr. Sister Pat’s presentation was insightful regarding the struggles teens face today, and I appreciated the real life strategies she provided for parents to use in helping set boundaries for our teens,” said Jean Lasics-Wessels, a freshman parent. 
Erin McEniry, a freshman parent, agreed. “I am happy with the faculty and staff at Rosary for keeping our girls’ mental health concerns out in the open and having them be comfortable with any concerns,” McEniry said. 
What are the answers in how to help teens? Sister Pat’s presentation provided some solid solutions, such as fostering integrity, curiosity, perseverance, optimism and prayer. 
During the pandemic, Rosary provided Wednesdays off, allowing times for clubs to meet and interact with one another over Zoom. 
“Now that we are back in person, Rosary still gives us a Wellness Wednesday each month to collect ourselves and give us a break,” adds student Briden. 
“These are days where I get ahead on my homework for the week and take the rest of the night for self care. Rosary also recognizes that students sometimes need a day to themselves, so we are given a certain amount of mental health days each year,” she said. 
Rosary High School continues a variety of mental health awareness and activities, such as Wellness Wednesdays; a virtual calming room; small group counseling (Girls with Grit); individual counseling; and fun projects like glitter jars, aromatherapy bracelets, coloring pages, movie day, and therapy dogs.
“Expectations are high at our school and a lot is expected of our students,” said Vicki Danklefsen, director of communications and marketing at  Rosary High School. 
“We are proud to provide many creative ways and calming devices to help our students cope and give them a fun way to spend time to talk with one another.”
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