In a crisis? Help is available. The Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency recognizes the amount of pressure that young people face, especially right here in our local community – AP classes, SATs, extracurricular activities, a busy social life. When it gets to be too much, students need somewhere to turn for support.
“We’re here to be a support and a resource,” said Jennifer Corbin, director of AACMHA’s Crisis Response System.
Corbin and her team can frequently been found on the scene whenever the community faces a crisis such as suicide. Despite a widely spread misconception, they were recently called in to Severna Park High School to aide teachers, counselors and students 16 and older. However, many students were either uninformed or reluctant. “What a lot of kids are saying is, ‘I want to talk about it, but I’m not sure I want to roll out of class and go talk about it,’” Corbin explained. “Kids are like adults in some ways. Some don’t want to stand up and say, ‘I’m upset.’”
In the case of those students who are younger than 16, Crisis Response can call the student’s parent and ask permission. The parent even has the option of staying part of the conversation via speakerphone or going to the school to be part of the meeting in person.
A big component of what Crisis Response does is help teenagers find a support network in times of despair. “What happens if you’re feeling sadder when you leave school?” Corbin posed theoretically. “That’s my concern – kids leave school in the evening, and what’s next?”
She often encourages students to think of three people with whom they would want to share good news as soon as they heard it. Those should be the same people they should turn to with bad news or when in a crisis. At least one of those three people should be an adult. Some students would opt to include their parents, while others would turn to a coach, a teacher, a counselor or a church leader.
Above all, Corbin emphasizes that young people should not be afraid to seek help. “I think teens need some time to get together to just unload and talk about what’s going on in a safe space,” she said. “How do we help our young people talk about feelings and know it’s OK, and then have peer support around that? One of the key things is letting kids hear from other kids.”
Crisis Response recently presented "You Are Not Alone" at Chesapeake High School to raise awareness of adolescent emotional well-being. Here's a clip featuring part of Corbin's message to the audience:
If a community member is in need, they can call the Crisis Response Center’s warmline at 410-768-5522. The warmline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nonemergency calls are handled by staff and will provide the caller with information, support and referrals. The Crisis Response System staff intervenes with callers who are experiencing a mental health and/or substance-use emergency. Warmline staff members coordinate calls with the police, fire and community agencies that are requesting information on crisis matters.
For more information, visit www.aamentalhealth.org.