Hello mental health champions, how are you doing?
Today I want to talk to parents and teen students. I want to talk about your options for getting help at school when it comes to mental health. Most schools have some support systems lined up for students in need. I am specifically going to be talking about Panic Attacks and what I did when I was experiencing them in High School.
One thing that helped me was having an excuse note I could use in any class. I had an issue with severe panic attacks almost my entire junior year and was having them on a daily basis multiple times a day. I always wanted to stay home but that made my mental health worse being away from all my friends and falling behind in school. It felt like a vicious cycle and like no matter what I did, I didn’t feel better. I eventually confided in the nurses at school that I am having panic attacks on a frequent basis and that’s why they see me a lot. It was also getting tumultuous with teachers as they thought I was always just trying to get out of the class because of boredom or laziness when that wasn’t the case. It got to a point when the nurses, my academic counselors, and my mom agreed that we needed an action plan. I didn’t want one and I felt embarrassed that all my teachers would know what was going on but it was at a point where it was necessary. We ended up coming up with a plan that was super beneficial to me since I was going through a mental health crisis. The first step I needed to take was to find a counselor again. It had been a couple years since stopping counseling and I definitely needed it again. Looking back on it, I wish I had never stopped going to counseling- but you live and you learn.
I was lucky because my school had advisors which were for academic related things but they also had social workers that were free and at no minimum to students who needed support. Instead of having to try and find help elsewhere that would most likely cut into school or work time, I was able to see a counselor during my free period and very discreetly. They paired me up with a phenomenal social worker. That alone helped the panic to get better. Then, I also got a note that was signed by my dean, academic advisor, social worker, nurse, and mom that I could discreetly give to any teacher in a time of panic that would allow me to remove myself from the class and lay down in the nurse’s office until I was able to calm down. Part of my anxiety came from the feeling that I was trapped. I didn’t like that I couldn’t just get up and use the bathroom if I had to and that I felt trapped. When you have a panic attack, it can sometimes help to get up and move around, splash some water in your face, etc. I immediately felt better when I knew that I had an out with this card. If I started to have a panic attack I would go up to the teacher and tell them that I need to go to the nurse. I would then hand them the pass that explained my situation adn that I was free to leave whenever I needed to. I used it many times until the panic would calm down.
Having both a counselor and a free pass made my life so much easier. I also made a relationship with the nurse as I mentioned and she would know what to do when I would show up at the office. She’d get me a cool pack for my head to calm me down and shock my system. She’d even sit there and talk to me about what was upsetting me. A lot of times, I didn’t even know- the panic would just come. Finally, I relied on my family and friends a lot. I let them know what was going on and they would come and support me- give me a hug or bring me water afterwards and it was comforting to know people cared. I called my mom almost every panic attack and she also talked me through it. It was a very difficult time, but people were amazing.
And I want you all to keep in mind that this was free. At the time, I hadn’t even considered meds although I most definitely could have used them. I had honestly just not thought about it because I was uneducated on the subject. The only thing to keep in mind is that to get meds you would have to go to a psychiatrist which they won’t have at school. They can prescribe meds but that all depends on your insurance. If seeing a psychiatrist isn’t an option, then I highly recommend doing what we did and seeing if you can set up a plan with the school.
Things I would do on my own to try and cope were:
-Carrying a familiar scent with me: I would bring a small bottle of lotion that has a scent that would bring me happy memories. I chose Jergens Cherry Almond because it reminded me of my grandma.
-Something you can touch: I would make sure to have something to fidget with whether it’s an actual fidgeting device or just a fluffy soft keychain. It would help to distract me from the panic.
-Carry gum or flavorful candy: Chewing on something super minty or sour can also distract your brain from the panic and help ground you.
-Breathe with your stomach: To stop hyperventilating, I would try to breathe with my stomach. I would push out and breathe in at a slow pace to help reset to normal rhythm.
-Check your five senses: Remind yourself to name things you see, hear, taste, feel, and smell.
-The last thing you can try if you have space and it’s in the right environment would be physical activity. You can take the energy from your fight or flight response and throw it into something fun like dancing or running to just let that energy go.
Talk to you soon brain battlers, Gracie <3
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The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.