Peer Support and Mentoring Club helps Cosumnes Oaks counselors host Mental Health Awareness Month booths

Peer Support and Mentoring Club helps Cosumnes Oaks counselors host Mental Health Awareness Month booths

Every May is mental health awareness month: a time to spotlight taking care of oneself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Mental Health Month’s role in destigmatizing conversations around mental health is prevalent not just in May, but year round. Cosumnes Oaks’ Peer Support and Mentoring Club (PSM) has worked all year to make mental health support more accessible to students.  

PSM is a club that builds connections between students alike to a counselor-student relationship. Mentors, who are upperclassmen, provide social, emotional, and academic support to mentees, who are typically underclassmen. Aspen Kim, the founder of the club, gathered members of PSM to help the counseling department host their yearly mental health booths; both promoting healthy coping skills and giving the club exposure.

The mental health booths were hosted during lunch outside, each promoting a healthy coping strategy or lifestyle choice. COHS’s counseling department planned the majority of the booths, some with input from Kim themself.

“We had a coloring booth with cards… to encourage creativity and gratitude,” said Kim. “There was [also] a healthy eating booth… not just to promote healthy eating, but also to promote that connection between your eating habits and your mental health together.”

The booths offered prizes for participating in their activities. At the healthy eating booth, for example, students had to take a piece of sliced fruit in order to win a prize. Other booths included hopscotch and a beanbag toss to promote exercise, and a bubbles booth that promoted breathing exercises as a self-soothing skill.

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COHS’s PSM Club has been engaging in efforts such as these to connect with the students on a more personal level. In their senior year, Kim started this club in collaboration with the school’s social worker. They trained 11th and 12th grade mentors in mental health support, conflict management, and communication skills such as active listening. Mentors worked with underclassmen, but in the upcoming year, receiving mentorship may be opened up to students of every grade level.

“The thing with having a peer, or like a student there instead of an adult, is that they lived through the same experiences more recently in the life stages that you’re at, like they experienced COVID-19 during middle or high school with you,” said Kim. “They’re able to relate more [in comparison to counselors].”

Kim’s unique high school experience influenced their idea for PSM: they attended an online school during 9th and 10th grade, returning to a traditional school for 11th and 12th grade at COHS.

“When I came in person, I really was looking for somewhere to go and somewhere to be, because I hadn’t really gone to a high school in person before… I feel like having that sort of support available might be helpful for other people like freshmen, who are coming into highschool confused and lost.”

Kim described PSM as a valuable opportunity to get involved in the school community, where students can explore the campus more and the people in it.

“I see a lot of faces around, and I don’t necessarily get to know those individuals on a personal level all the time. But when I have a mentee, they will talk to me about things that they might have never brought up if I hadn’t interacted with them in that “mentor-mentee” sort of relationship,” said Kim.

Finally, Kim gave their thoughts on the importance of PSM in today’s social climate.

“I think there’s a lot more [mental health] resources nowadays, and it’s a lot more destigmatized and more talked about, but I still think that it can be really hard for students to experience those things – especially because they’re in a time of their lives where there’s a lot of change,” said Kim. “It’s hard to deal with that change, because they’re not really used to it. So I think that highschoolers might sometimes have a hard time finding healthy ways to cope with those emotions and experiences, but they definitely can navigate them if they’re given the best resources.”

PSM plans to continue and expand in the upcoming school year under the leadership of a rising senior. You can find the club on Instagram @cohspeersupport.

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