Mental health in teens at Grand Ledge High School

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By Ariel Rogers
Grand Ledge Gazette staff writer

Students at Grand Ledge High School often are not aware of the counseling options available. Photo by Ariel Rogers

Students at Grand Ledge High School are often unaware of the counseling options available. Photo by Ariel Rogers

GRAND LEDGE — Grand Ledge High School has a student population nearing 1,800 ninth through 12th graders. Students are often overwhelmed with the stress of becoming an adult and planning the future.

Kathy Coscarelli is a licensed counselor in the Grand Ledge area. She receives referrals from GLHS for further counseling options for the students.

“Kids are so stressed about the future,” Coscarelli said. “They have no hope. Mom and dad are fighting.”

A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration surveyed people ages 12 through 17 if they experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. (In 2011, 8.2% of the people interviewed) experienced a depressed mood or loss in interest in daily activities that lasted more than two weeks in the past year.

Coscarelli sees teenagers dealing with depression, anger and anxiety in addition to general stress. Self-harm is a popular means of dealing with these undesirable feelings, Coscarelli said.

“It is directly related to hurting so much inside, so they hurt themselves on the outside,” Coscarelli said. “Plus, other people see it. Any attention is better than no attention.”

Anorexic and bulimic behaviors are also common in teenagers. Eating disorders are attention grabbers and serve as a means of gaining control “when you have none.”

Suicide is the third most popular cause of death in adolescents according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coscarelli said that a major source of stress that causes further disorders comes from home, such as parents divorcing or constantly arguing.

“Kids do better at school when home life is okay,” Coscarelli said. “They have stronger coping mechanisms to deal with the stress that school brings.”


Personal experiences

Nicole Nicolaou, a former GLHS student, was diagnosed with clinical depression when she was 18-years-old.

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“[My depression] was more hereditary and the environment I was raised in,” Nicolaou said. “I was always surrounded by negativity and had a large lack of self-esteem. I put the worth of myself in other people.”

Josh Hurlburt’s girlfriend in high school struggled with severe depression when they were students at GLHS. She also received outside counseling during that time.

“It was hard on her and everyone around her,” Hurlburt said.


Taking action in schools

John Mills is a social worker at Grand Ledge High School who primarily works with special education students. Mills also works with emotionally impaired (EI) students, including those suffering from severe depression.

“I do evaluations to see if the student qualifies for EI treatment,” Mills said. “If the depression is significant enough, has been going on for a long time and is impacting the student socially, academically and behaviorally, then we offer special education services.”

The students that qualify for the services receive an individual education plan (IEP) to help cater to their needs. Some accommodations available at GLHS for students with IEPs include access to resource classrooms, classes that are smaller in size, quiet places to study and take tests and extended time to allow students to complete assignments.

Counselors are available for students with less severe depression and emotional problems; however they are seen more as academic counselors than emotional counselors.

“I didn’t think [the GLHS counselors] could help me,” Nicolaou said. “It wasn’t made clear that they could help you.”

The counseling center at Grand Ledge High School offers more than just academic advisory. Photo by Ariel Rogers

The counseling center at Grand Ledge High School offers more than just academic advisory. Photo by Ariel Rogers


Possible solutions

Coscarelli hopes that one day the schools will allow her to teach a class about mental wellness that would allow students to learn useful emotional coping skills.

“It’s surprising how many adult [clients] I get who wish they would have been taught in high school how to deal with their emotions,” Coscarelli said. “They wish they knew how to deal with things like their boss being a jerk or how to control their anger.”

Nicolaou hopes the school system will be more forward about their services for students beyond academic counseling.

“I think the school should advertise themselves to be available to talk about emotional problems as well,” Nicoalou said. “They should encourage students to seek help, if not in school, outside of school.”

For more information, contact Ariel Rogers at

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