Oasis Middle School staff speak about students’ mental health struggles

Published: June 1, 2022 11:28 AM EDT
Updated: June 1, 2022 11:30 AM EDT

Staffers at Oasis Middle School spoke to WINK News about what is hurting students on the inside amid the regular trials of school and discussion of the dangers presented by gun violence.

Going to school is hard enough already, between peer pressure, social media, the pandemic and the pursuit of academic achievement. It all takes a toll on children. The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has once again put a spotlight on children’s mental health and how best to get them help. WINK News anchor Corey Lazar spent some time at Oasis Middle talking to teachers, counselors and the principal to get an inside look at how they are trying to help their students.

School counselor Amanda Kendrick and social worker Tiffany Corbin opened up about the number of students suffering. They say these kids at Oasis Middle, still at such a young age, are already reaching out for help. Kendrick has an online form students can fill out for requests to see her. 25 to 30 forms usually come in every single week.

“It comes to me and they kind of rank the severity of it, like if it’s, you know, it’s an emergency, they’re suicidal, they’re not going to make it through the day,” Kendrick said. “I think with COVID, and being home for so long, that they kind of missed a piece of problem-solving skills. They didn’t get to sit down face to face and sort through any issues.”

The Florida Department of Health released results from a middle school behavioral survey. More than 4,500 children from the 6th, 7th and 8th grades took the survey. One of the biggest issues was the number of kids wanting to lose weight and trying to do something about it: 51% of 13-year-olds said they are trying to lose weight, and a little more than 25% of 13- and 14-year-olds were going without eating for 24 hours or more to do so.

“Just the social media thing,” Corbin said. “This image that they are seeing and they feel they have to portray, and they have to try to do that and be that.”

“With all these filters and everything, and pictures and videos, and they’re seeing this, what they’re supposed to look like or what social media is saying they need to look like, so they feel that what they see in the mirror is not that, and they want to look like that,” Kendrick said.

Principal Donnie Hopper says one benefit of mental health being talked about more is that children are finding the words to identify how they are feeling. He says the top words students use when talking about their struggles are “anxiety,” “depression” and “suicide.”

“Kids can come up with that vocabulary on their own,” Hopper said. “Back in the day, an 11-year-old student would never be able to go there.”

Educators say students are more eager than ever to open up about mental health challenges. The Collier County School District says it has also seen a rise in children battling mental health concerns in recent years.