The pages of Daniel Pearl Magnet High School junior Sylvana Prieto’s leather journal are covered with messy doodles, notes and illustrations. Journaling is one of the many coping skills that students, including Prieto, learn through the program Erika’s Lighthouse, which teaches students about depression.
“I think [Erika’s Lighthouse] was helpful,” 16-year-old Prieto said. “I liked some of the coping skills like going outside and exercising.”
The Erika’s Lighthouse program at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School is run by psychiatric social worker Joanne Tuell. The adolescent depression education program occurs during advisory periods and consists of three lessons and a program wrap-up survey. During the program, participants are taught about depression, depression treatment, how to help friends struggling with depression, coping skills and more.
“We are trying to teach students four things: that depression is a common and serious brain disorder, depression is treatable, you can make a difference in someone’s life and good mental health is for everyone,” Tuell said.
Distance learning has taken a toll on the mental health of many students. It has also made it more difficult to run Erika’s Lighthouse because it is challenging to have in-depth conversations virtually.
“I realized that [Erika’s Lighthouse] was talking about depression and that it was going to help people,” Prieto said. “Especially with the pandemic, I think we all really need that extra help.”
English teacher Ron Baer recently did the Erika’s Lighthouse program with both of his advisory periods. He, along with a few other teachers, did the program for three consecutive Fridays beginning on October 30.
“I was happy with it,” Baer said. “[I learned] just how universal depression can be for people. Ms. Tuell did a great job.”
A large part of what students learn through this program is that depression is treatable and that there is help available. If a student needs support, they can text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, which operates 24 hours, seven days a week.
“We tell the kids to practice the coping skills and if they continue to have symptoms that they feel are not manageable, to tell a trusted adult,” Tuell said. “We encourage friends to reach out to a trusted adult as well if one of their friends is experiencing depression or a lot of stress.”