Stigma limits use of mental health services at Urban 

Zadie Winthrop, Staff Writer

A regular sight around Urban: dark eye bags and hands gripping onto cold brew as if their glass Starbucks bottle is a lifeline. The 420 students who attend Urban are stressed and overworked. 

Kaern Kreyling’s brown plush couch, colorful walls, and inviting purple orchids provide a calming escape from teenage life to a number of Urban Students. Still, a large portion of Urban’s student body has reservations about seeing Kreyling, the school’s main counselor.

“I feel like I have to have a 4.0, do sports, and all these extracurricular activities and volunteer,” said an anonymous sophomore. To help students manage this stress, Urban provides numerous mental health support programs. 

Urban immerses mental health care into the curriculum by providing healthy food and requiring physical activity, which promotes both mental and physical health. Urban’s 9-11th grade health program and Peer Resource, a team of students focused on improving mental wellness, encourage these efforts. Beyond this, Urban has a full-time counselor, Kaern Kreyling and assistant counselor, Alexander Germanacos. 

In February of 2019, the Pew Research Center collected data stating that: 70% of teens say anxiety and depression is a “major problem” among their peers. Counseling is a standard treatment for both anxiety and depression.

 “I have seen over half the current upper-class folks (11-12th grades) at one time or another,” says Kreyling. According to Kreyling’s data, 60-70% of the class of ’20 will have met with her once or more over their high school years.

“I do not know anyone who talks about [counseling], I know people who talk about their mental health, but not about using Urban’s services,” said an anonymous sophomore. She recently lost a few family members and suffered from extreme grief. Her advisor recommended seeing Kreyling, but she felt counseling was too unfamiliar an option. “I have no idea what it is,” she said. 

Kreyling defines her services as “companionship and conversation.” People see her with thoughts spanning from, “support at something that feels hard, [to] engaging existential questions,” she said. 

Another anonymous sophomore felt afraid of, “judgment[s] for sharing [their] problems.” While also, “judging [themselves] for letting it get to that point where I need to tell somebody.” This sophomore felt that because they do not have a medical diagnosis, their problems were not big enough to get counseling.

“I wish people would use therapy more, rather than it being just so problem-oriented,” Kreyling said. She added that “seniors come in to just talk about life … years ago, I used to talk to every senior before graduation.” 

Lizzy Hayashi ’20 has relied on Urban’s support systems, particularly in her junior and senior years. “My mental health issues come from a lot of stress that comes with Urban,” says Hayashi. She has combated this by relying on her advisor and Charisse Wu, the 11th and 12th-grade dean. Hayashi felt a lot more comfortable seeking out help in her senior and junior years because, “as a freshman and sophomore, I felt too new at this school to need help,” she said

Urban aims to make learning a joyful process, and students’ mental health is essential to that mission. Urban is still striving to encourage, “working on mental health and self-awareness,” said Charlotte Worsley, Assistant Head of School and Head of Student Life. While essential, this is a difficult undertaking. As an anonymous Urban Student put it, “there is always a stigma around going to ask for help,” and many students feel that their, “problems are not valid enough to ask for…help.”