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A counselor sitting down and discussing a students’ life.

    Does Westfield provide an emotionally safe environment? Do students really believe that they can speak to the counselor? Over the last two years, I have spoken with several students about their experiences regarding their school counselors. 

    Students tend to not trust. According to an article by the American Sociological Association “distrust between counselors and students is due to a lack of shared understanding.” There is no clear communication between students and counselors. I spoke to students around Westfield and to Dr. Howard Hope, Sub School 1 Counselor, to see how they feel in this situation.

    I asked students if they ever felt like they were not heard at this school. All of them said that at some point in time they have felt ignored. 

    Naysa Piper-Fisher, 11, said she feels like she has never been heard “I’ve gone to teachers and administrators with my problems all the time, but because I’m a ‘good student’ they ignore me.” 

    Zaina Smith, 12, said “I think that there is a general sense of being disconnected here at Westfield, despite all of the preaching of being a community. I think that things typically are easier said than done, and many of the events that have occurred in recent years have numbed, dulled, and ostracized us from each other.” 

    Westfield has this vision of a harmonic community, but that’s hard to achieve with everyone’s differences. When something does go wrong they rely on the help of counselors but it’s not helpful because there are rules against not informing students’ guardians about something potentially dangerous. I also asked Dr. Hope if students come talk to him about their mental health. He said that plenty of students come to see him.

    When asked if counselors actually helped, Amy O’brien, 9,  responded, “I think going to the counselor helps. Throughout elementary and middle school I often found myself going to the counselor, which helped me destress“.It does take time to trust counselors, but ultimately they’re a great option for those in need. So not all students believe that they can’t trust counselors but other students like Alyssa Rim, 11, said “No. Personally, I’ve only gone to the counselor one time, and it was for my course selection,” and Piper-Fisher said “Not at all. I’ve talked to my counselors twice. One time I ended up crying for 10 minutes, and another I ended up leaving without anything resolved. I’ve come to the point that I go to my old Spanish teacher, and get more support”. 

    Some students don’t believe that they are  supported by the counselors so they find other people to support them and give them advice. 

    The last question I asked was whether they have ever been in a situation where they felt unsafe to talk about their mental health. Every student I spoke to said that there were moments when they did feel as if they couldn’t speak about their mental health. Smith answered by saying “Yes. I think that this is most evident in the attitude that the majority of students have towards the student surveys for emotional wellbeing and such. I don’t know a single person that feels comfortable being honest with them, and almost everyone lies about the intrusive questions. There is a lack of confidentiality that is quintessential in creating a safe space for students to express their emotions”. While Rim spoke about an experience where a teacher asked her a question about mental health in front of her classmates saying “In one of my classes, it felt embarrassing to talk about mental health when my teacher asked me about it in front of my classroom”. 

    While some students believe that counselors are helpful and they can trust them, others believe that they can’t trust counselors because they don’t understand what they are going through, and they believe that counselors will inform their parents of what they spoke about.
Regardless counselors like Dr.Hope believe that students do come to counselors and should continue to speak to counselors.