Hope Squad Brings Awareness to Student Mental Health Issues

Students+from+Hope+Squad+wrote+encouraging+sticky+notes+for+students+to+take.

Students from Hope Squad wrote encouraging sticky notes for students to take.

Avni Vallab, Writer

Plano West launched Hope Squad, a new application-based class that functions as a peer-to-peer mental health awareness support group. 

Hope Squad’s uniqueness lies in its peer-to-peer format, allowing students struggling with their mental health to connect with other students. Carmen Peirce, a senior hope squad member, believes this student-run structure makes it more likely for students to seek help with their mental health 

“Many students feel more comfortable talking to other students rather than adults, which is super important for those already nervous of the vulnerable positions of receiving help.” said Pierce.  

Each member of Hope Squad was nominated by students from the previous year, something Pierce believes creates a tight-knit community of support. Pierce says “We (Hope Squad Students) are nominated by other students specifically to find people that already are an established part of the school community and could make an impact.”

Making the transition from online school straight into the classroom has been a challenging shift for many students. Living through a pandemic accompanied with a myriad of politically charged experiences stacked with the challenges of senior high school leads Pierce to believe this is an ideal year to start a mental health-focused group.

Pierce says “With the anxieties plaguing the world outside of school, support through it has also become a bigger priority as we all try to do what’s best and get through all the new stimuli and tension it brings.” Pierce further emphasized the feelings the pandemic caused created a real need for starting Hope Squad this year “The pandemic highlighted feelings of isolation in a lot of us, so being a part of a more collaborative and supportive community is very important.”

One big way students passed time during COVID-19 was through increased screen time. While technology can certainly be a creative outlet for kids to express themselves, Pierce believes there can be a real downside.

 “Social media can be harmful, depending on its use, there’s so much content and so much more information being presented to students today than there used to be that it can be overwhelming and cause stress out of something that was made to be fun.” says Pierce.

To improve mental health, Pierce believes one of the most important things students can do is to check in with themselves “Students should try to practice self-care in some form…for how they are feeling and what is going on for them that may cause stress or anxiety…”

For Pierce, one of her favorite ways to unwind is to journal her thoughts “I like to journal my thoughts and emotions to get it all out after a long day or watch some movies to relax.”

Operating as a class at Plano West can place restrictions on what Hope Squad hopes to accomplish if funding or administrative rules were no object; Pierce has high hopes for future projects Hope Squad should pursue 

“We would love to have crisis training lessons at school, as well as potentially set up a crisis text line/call line specifically for our students in order to ensure they have access to help at any time. The latter would be harder to implement, but we are looking into crisis/mental health counseling training for our Hope Squad members right now if we can get it approved.” says Pierce

Pierce plans to pursue psychology in college and want to engage further in helping those with mental health struggles “Whether it’s specifically Hope Squad or another mental health organization that helps other students and members of my community, I definitely want to be involved, especially since I hope to major in psychology in college.” says Pierce. 

If students need any assistance with mental health challenges, they can contact Hope Squad through their Instagram at @pwshhopesquad.