September 2017

Page 1

Blue Valley North High School

12200 Lamar Ave, Overland Park, KS 66209

September 2017 | Volume 32 | Issue 1

The North Star ta n e M



t l h a e

2| The North Star | September 2017

The North Star Staff Editors-in-chief Connor Clary Nicole Dolan Laura Evans

Staff Writers

Leah Anderson Briley Everhart Katie George Angie Giglione

Copy Editors

Lyndsey Henkel

Kristen Xu

Sooim Kang

Lauren Graham Shantha Burt

Social Media Editor Lexie Herman


Grace E. Rudman Katie George

Design Editor Taylor Mills

Merall Janjua Caroline Koenig Anna Martin Mathew Cotton Brooke Werp

The North Star is the official high school news publication of Blue Valley North High School, an open forum distributed to all students six times a year. This is the September issue of volume 32. The North Star is printed by the Sedalia Democrat. This is a student publication and may contain controversial material. Kansas law prohibits the suppression of a student publication solely because it may contain controversial matter. Blue Valley School District No. 229 and its board members, officers and employees disclaim any responsibility for the content of this student publication; it is not an expression of School District Policy. Students and editors are solely responsible for the content of this student publication.

September 2017 | The North Star | 3

Table of Contents

School Happenings

14 Learning to Learn

4 Dear Freshmen



New Staff Q&A

7 Keeping up with the Clubs

8 Fast Track to Teaching

10 Unseen Players of the Team

12 Getting the Best of the Test

24 Cerebral Celebs 25 Your Mental Health on Drugs

16 Keep the Spark Alive

26 Road to Stress

(Funda)mental Health

28 Therapy: What’s the

20 Signs and Steps

30 The Other End of

21 Mental Health Memos

22 The Science Behind Mental Health



the Line

ON THE COVER: Phoenix Nghiem models for The North Star photographer Grace E. Rudman

4 | The North Star | September 2017

DEAR FRESHMEN Column By Sooim Kang

The freshmen are introduced to the ins and outs of BVN and are given encouraging advice from fellow students, staff and teachers.

Opinion | September 2017 | The North Star | 5


ith the start of every school year, a new group of inexperienced freshmen enter the doors of BVN, bracing themselves for the chaos that is high school. An overwhelming array of emotions immediately floods their minds and force them to feel the “freshman fear.” On top of the pressure of making new friends, meeting new teachers and adjusting to new environments, the expectations of being a high schooler can weigh heavily upon their shoulders.

“We have a really great community.” -Sarah Unterhalter

These expectations can be found in the form of unspoken social as well as academic rules. Through years of experience and traditions, North has accumulated a list of unspoken rules that every high schooler should follow. One of the most common rules that every student has figured out, one way or another, is to always stay on the right side of the hallways. “For sure right is right,” junior Alaina Perila said. “Make sure they walk on the right side of the lane.” This rule might seem small and obvious, but it is one of the most basic and most essential parts of settling into North’s crazy environment. Students can thoughtlessly flood into the hallways during passing period and will surely trample you if you fail to stick by this rule. Second, another unspoken rule of North involves the lunch behaviors. Typically, the underclassmen gets access to the outside seats of the cafeteria, while the upperclassmen eat on the inside, a privilege that students can look forward to participating in as upperclassmen. “At this point, it’s the social norm,” junior Grace Keirn said. “I can’t imagine us trying to change this tradition.” When lunchtime rolls around, upperclassmen can enjoy the security in knowing there will always be an available space for them to eat at with their friends. This can also relieve the

stress for freshmen of trying to fight for a seat with opposing upperclassmen. “It’s nice to know that I can sit in the middle of the lunchroom now and not have to rush to find a good seat on the outside,” Keirn said. Besides these examples of common “unspoken rules” of BVN, teachers, staff and students also have more serious expectations for the freshmen to follow. High school can sometimes get overwhelming, so it might help to get advice from those who have been in similar shoes. “Get involved,” is one of the most common phrases a student can hear when entering high school. Because of how often this phrase is repeated, it can be easy to forget the actual importance and relevance that it carries. North offers a lot of opportunities for students to explore their passions and talents, and it is strongly encouraged for freshmen to take advantage of this. “I would say to pay attention to available opportunities,” broadcast teacher Charlie Huette said. “I feel like there’s a dominant narrative at North about the way to be a good student and a perfect student, taking AP classes and all that sort of stuff. I think that might be a little short sighted right now. I think there’s a lot of opportunities that if you follow that path, you overlook, such as Newspaper, Broadcast, Band, Choir and whatever.” When asked what she wished someone had told her when she was a freshman, senior Sarah Unterhalter said, “I wish someone had told me to get more involved in school and do as many activities as I could when I was a freshman.”

“You’re a part of Blue Valley North now; it’s okay to show your spirit.” -Alaina Perila

At first, this might seem like a daunting task to undertake, but it is important to realize that the community at BVN is ready to embrace what students have to offer. “You’re a part of Blue Valley North

now; it’s okay to show your spirit,” Perila said. “Be a part of that and really embrace Blue Valley North. Don’t be afraid to get really involved in all the events.” The community that is built on BVN grounds is something every freshman should get excited about. A huge part in building this community, though, comes from the students’ willingness to show their school spirit, even as freshmen. “I think they should get excited, get hyped up, show their school spirit and have fun because BVN is a really great place to go to school,” Unterhalter said. “We have a really great community.” Also, recognize that there is so much more to learn outside of the classroom. As much as grades and extracurricular activities matter to a student’s life on paper, it is important to understand the possibilities of learning that lie outside of a classroom.

“Recognize that you can learn outside of just what your teacher tells you.” -Jenna Frick, science teacher

“School is about learning things more than just information from the classroom,” science teacher Jenna Frick said. “Recognize that you can learn outside of just what your teacher tells you.” Last, just remember that freshman year is a year for students to grow and learn more about what they want for their future, so it is okay if you still feel lost at the end of the year. It might take four years of stress, anxiety, fun memories, new experiences and meeting new people to finally feel like you have wrapped your finger around the ins and outs of high school. But by then, the caps will have been thrown, the diplomas will have been passed out and the seniors will now become the freshmen and brace themselves to enter the doors of a new school. So to all the freshmen, get ready for the rollercoaster that is high school; you might love it, you might hate it, but you’ll never forget it.


ew staff members Sarah Beren and Jessica Thornburg hope to better and improve the lives of students through their new positions starting at Blue Valley North. They share about their positions in a Q&A. Where was your previous job? How did you get to North/to be in this position? Academic Interventionalist Sarah Beren: I worked as an ELA and AVID teacher at BVNW for the last 12 years. I am currently pursuing my master’s in School Counseling. I have worked with several members of the BVN administration over the years, and my kids are BVN alums.

September 2017 | The North Star | 6

SB: Counselors’ jobs have not changed; they still offer emotional support, as well as scheduling and testing. My job is a little more global. As students face obstacles, my job is to help either the student or the school, or both, figure out which intervention(s) will be useful. There are so many resources — I am here to help navigate them. JT: I feel that my role overlaps with school counselors and school psychologist in many ways, but I feel that I am able to connect students with community resource supports. I feel that the social worker’s job is to improve the lives of individuals, groups, communities and society as a whole.

Social Worker Jessica Thornburg: I was at a program called GEAR (Growth, Education and Reflection) last year which is connected to BVA (Blue Valley Academy). Before that, I worked at North Kansas City Hospital for eight years. When I heard that Children’s Mercy Hospital was partnering with Blue Valley School District, I thought it be a wonderful opportunity to be part of two amazing organizations.

What is the overall goal of adding your position to the BVN staff?

How is your job different from the school counselors?

SB: A piece of candy or a cup of coffee and a smile. I hope they expect to be honest with me and

SB: Increase communication among the staff and to help students be successful at BVN. JT: To provide additional support to the students and staff here at North. What should students expect when they come to see you?

open to my support. JT: I am available to help students identify and/or support them with issues that interfere with learning. I can also work with students to get the services they may need outside of the classroom as well. What does your title academic interventionist mean? SB: To me, it means leveling [the] playing field so that every student has an opportunity to succeed, regardless of obstacles. How is a social worker different/ similar to a therapist? JT: The word “therapist” is used as a broad term to describe someone who provides therapy and counseling. A therapist can be a social worker, mental health counselor, psychologist, or marriage and family therapist. What’s the best part of your job? SB: A student who says, “I think this class is really helping me.” JT: Helping students to achieve success at any level and [providing] emotional and behavioral [support].

By Katie George

Keeping up with the


Alison Crane, if there was a club president or student representative for the club. She simply responded by saying, “No not really. We’re all equal here in design lab. For the first few minutes, members began to roll in with their lunches and in the relaxed environment, Design Lab collaboration was abundant. Club sponsors Everyone was welcomed in. Alison Crane Crane started the (left) and Abby discussion by bringing Cornelius up topics from the last (right.) week’s meeting. The club’s overall plan for the year is to “just make a difference,” according to Crane. Design Lab club focuses on turning more popular.” places with The club no use into was only girls innovative until last year, areas but now the “We’re all equal to help boys are in for here in design lab.” increase the long ride. the value -Alison Crane “I like of learning. K-Pop because Ever I like to do wonder dance,” vice where president those Kakeru Oikawa said. “There white boards in the back are no auditions, so anyone of the arts hall came from? can join even if they aren’t Design Lab helped turn that good at dancing.” small hallway into a place of K-Pop club is as creativity. motivated as they have ever Crane has around 15 to been this year, and that 20 students this year. She means many rehearsals and brings in students that want new dances. Make sure to to get involved in graphic cheer on the club at this design. year’s diversity assembly. To The club is in place be a part of the K-Pop club, because the sponsors head over to room 413 on want students to be in a Tuesdays after school from community that lets them be 3-4 p.m. to join the fun. a part of something more. Design Lab club is Look forward to new and stepping into the new school modern projects throughout year with fresh ideas, ready the school as well as way to make a difference. more incorporation with When first entering room student art work this year. 518, I was immediately Also, make sure to catch a impressed with what I saw. meeting or two in room 518 All of the members were during both A and B lunches using new white board desks at North Time. to sketch and plan out their ideas for the meeting. I asked the sponsor,


Personal Column by Briley Everhart Brienne Sommerrauer, K-Pop President (left) and Kakeru Oikawa (right) Vice President.

Opinion | September 2017 | The North Star | 7

lubs at BVN have an The club started out by important influence introducing themselves and on the students and sharing their favorite K-Pop staff. Clubs can both help groups. Members were improve the community and passionate about the music offer a place for students to they love and the people feel accepted. they share it with. By understanding what I could see the dedication these groups do, students and compassion towards the can become more involved club in the members’ eyes in school events, gain as they watched footage of awareness of the work the their previous dances. The student body does, and help new members looked excited make memories that are yet nervous to be new to a meant to club, but they be made in were ready to high school. absorb all of Dig a little the aspects of “There are no deeper and K-Pop club. auditions, so see what The club anyone can join big plans members the clubs never even if they aren’t have for the expected the good at dancing.” upcoming overwhelm-Kakeru Olkawa school year. ing popuAfter larity of the K-Pop club’s group, but popular performances over they came to realize that the the last year, they’re back student body has been excitand excited to show off their ed for the next performance fresh ideas and new moves. since their debut dance at Walking into K-Pop the 2016 diversity assembly. club for the first time is an “At first we would just experience like no other. have meetings, eat and The environment is upbeat, watch music videos,” and I was welcomed in with club president, Brienne open arms. They treated me Sommerrauer said. “Then like I had been a member for we were at the diversity years. assembly — we got way

8 | The North Star | September 2017

By Anna Martin and Lauren Graham Photos by Grace E. Rudman

Fast Track to Teaching

Laura O’Connell channels her passions for running and being a teacher.


aura O’Connell is known as a math teacher or a cross country and track coach, but not many students are aware that in high school she won 11 individual Kansas State Championships in cross country and track. In college, O’Connell was a two-time Big 12 Champion in track, qualified for nationals twice in track and even qualified for the USA Championships in track, as well. In order to achieve accomplishments similar to those of O’Connell, one would have to put time and hard work into improving. Even with all of O’Connell’s hard work, she still faced challenges. ‘’One thing that I learned from running was the hard work,” O’Connell said. “It takes a certain mindset to really go out and push yourself to the limit and to do

the training — it’s a lot of dedication, and this mindset has helped me with everything.’’ Just like any other activity, one has to start somewhere. O’Connell got her start in middle school when she went

“I always knew what I [needed] to get done, and I had always been a to-do list person, so I think it was a balance of knowing what needed to get done and getting it done,” -Laura O’Connell

out for track in seventh grade. She ended up breaking eight middle school records, and she was told she should try club track, an outside-ofschool running team that competes throughout the year. “I threw a fit because

I was convinced I was a soccer player,” O’Connell said. “That summer when my mom made me do track, I got second at AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] Nationals and that’s when I started to really enjoy it,” O’Connell said. “The next year, I started really enjoying it, and, especially in high school, I really got into it. Freshman year, I did both soccer and cross country. [I] then decided to make the switch to be a runner.” Balancing school work with her running career may have seemed like a challenge, but O’Connell enjoyed it. “I always knew what I [needed] to get done, and I had always been a to-do list person, so I think it was a balance of knowing what needed to get done and getting it done,” O’Connell said. “Also, I never considered running or school [as] that much

September 2017 | The North Star | 9 work because I enjoyed both of them.” Since O’Connell enjoyed the atmosphere of school, it only made sense to her that she become a teacher. “I knew I always wanted to do something where I was interacting with people, so it always seemed like the perfect fit, and always made sense,” O’Connell said. O’Connell’s hard work attitude has rubbed off on her athletes. “She is always positive and motivates us when we’re tired,” junior and

student-athlete Lily Strauss said. “She really cares a lot about her athletes, and [that] shows

“I feel like I’ve found what I’m supposed to do.” -Laura O’Connell

on the awards stand.” O’Connell learned that the most exhausting and time consuming work can all be worth it if it is enjoyed.

“I drive to work every single day excited to get there,” O’Connell said. “Even though I’m beyond exhausted when I get home, I can’t wait to tell my husband about the day I had. I feel like I’ve found what I’m supposed to do.” O’Connell genuinely enjoys what she does and likes to spread her passions too others. “She is a really talented athlete, and her successes inspire us,” Strauss said. “She showed me that hard work pays off and running is a lifelong sport.”

Unseen Players of the Team

10 | The North Star | September 2017

An article about the contributions and roles that parents of student athletes have. By Lyndsey Henkel

Jacqueline Robertson watches her sons play against St. Thomas Aquinas.


ith school starting up, there are practices and events happening all around. However, the athletes aren’t the only ones that have to get things done. Parents have to plan time to run these events and watch the games. There are many preparations leading up to game time. For most sports, this includes team dinners that parents host almost every week. When it comes to football, Jacqueline Robertson, mother of players junior Darin and senior Thatcher Robertson, takes on various responsibilities. These include preparing team meals before Friday games, making sure the spirit wear gets organized, running the Gridiron Club (a group of parents taking time preparing meals and fundraising for the football team), and making sure her sons are maintaining a good academic standing. She also believes the effort her sons put into their passion contributes to their success. She said she understands that between late night practices, at least an

hour of homework and practicing on the weekends, her children have some pressure on them. As a result, she does the best she can to support them by going to all of their games, being involved with the sport and helping them mentally. Jacqueline Robertson thinks it is

“My advice to student athletes is to get high academics, believe in themselves and have full dedication in what they do.” —Jacqueline Robertson important that parents appreciate the sport as well. She said she gets nervous and anxious when it gets close to the season. However, she is very excited to see her two boys play side by side this year. “My boys share the passion of football with me and their father,” Robertson said.

“We all enjoy it very much.” When it comes to student point of view, juniors Ellie and Chloe Kuckelman are glad they have their parents’ full support. With all of their championships and tournaments, it might not be an easy role for their parents. “They are always there to support no matter what, and we both really appreciate it,” Chloe Kuckelman said. Their parents, Craig and Mickie Kuckelman, are three-year members of the Parent Booster Club, which provides meals for the teams along with financial support. The Lady Mustangs, which Craig and Mickie Kuckelman are also involved in, support all of the female sports and put together different events and organizations for the teams. It has grown rapidly with the support of parents and other sports at BVN. Craig and Mickie Kuckelman enjoy being there for them before, during and after a game. They try their best by making all of the games or events. “I think the key is planning as far

September 2017 | The North Star | 11

Parents of varsity volleyball players watch intently.

Chloe and Ellie Kuckelman stand with parents, Craig and Mickie Kuckelman, after Chloe won state in 2016. ahead as possible,” Mickie Kuckelman said. “Getting the sport schedules well in advance in order to coordinate with work schedules is a huge help.” They also contribute by making sure they are well rested and have enough nutrition. Mickie Kuckelman thinks it’s important for parents to give unconditional love and support in whatever activities their children choose.

“I remember after winning state, my whole family was crying and it was just a special moment. One I could never forget.” —Chloe Kuckelman Many athletes have been playing sports since they were young. Jill Meyer’s two daughters, junior Charlotte and freshman Mackenzie Meyer, have been playing soccer and lacrosse since they were little.

“I see the girls having fun with their sports just like they used to when they were younger,” Jill Meyer said. Since Charlotte and Mackenzie were in kindergarten, Jill Meyer has been there for them. She has driven them to their games, made sure they were mentally and physically prepared and taught them how to have fun. In fall of 2015, Charlotte Meyer had a major soccer injury that impacted the family. Her femur was broken and the knee-cap completely split from the rest of the bone. She had to get two rods through her leg to hold it together. “At the beginning it was just the day to day, how do we get through it kind of stuff,” Jill Meyer said. Charlotte was out of school for three months with tutors and no activity, and she couldn’t play sports for a long time after. However, she was attended to by her mother and sister. Jill Meyer remained positive even though there was nothing they could do to prepare for it. She took Charlotte to all of her doctor

Varsity football parents cheer after a good play. appointments, cooked her meals and sat with her while doing school work. “I am very blessed to have an incredibly strong group of friends and neighbors. We got through it together,” Jill Meyer said. Despite the difficulty, Charlotte now plays competitive lacrosse.

“Not enough students actually think about the roles of parents. I think more people should stop and thank their mom or dad.” -Ellie Kuckelman The Robertsons, Kuckelmans and Meyers all agree that sports have played a major role in their lives. Whether it is good or bad, athletics have impacted all of their families, which, to them, created a stronger bond.

12 | The North Star | September 2017

Best Test Get the of the

Students and a professional share ways to prepare for standardized tests. By Angie Giglione Photo by Grace E. Rudman


et’s face it: Standardized tests are a part of high school. Studying for and stressing about tests like the ACT and SAT are an inevitable part of high school for students such as seniors Clark Van Lieshout and Jenna Russo. The test results are often used for determining which colleges students get into or how much scholarship money they will receive. Because of the high stakes associated with them, standardized tests can be a major source of anxiety. Edie Downing is an ACT and SAT tutor based in Overland Park, Kan. She knows how stressful standardized tests can be. Downing has been helping kids prepare for standardized tests for 10 years. She has done everything from teach group classes for the Princeton Review, tutor kids one-on-one and even study with kids over the phone.

“Whenever I got stressed out, I would just remind myself that one test isn’t going to determine the rest of my life.” -Jenna Russo “Having taught both group classes and working with individuals, what I’ve noticed is [that] students are reluctant to volunteer in a group setting,” Downing said. “If you don’t ask questions you don’t learn. If you don’t make mistakes you might not learn.”

Tutoring Sessions Since Downing helps students study for both the ACT and the SAT, she has insight to the similarities, differences and ins and outs of the two tests. She noted that over the years they have become increasingly alike. “For example, the SAT used to have a penalty for guessing,” Downing said. “Your number of correct answers was not your score. Well, the SAT did away with the guessing penalty. They also reduced the number of answer choices from five to four, which increases your odds of being able to guess correctly.” Over time, the resources available to students have changed, including the introduction of online resources. However, just because a student spends money on study materials, they may not necessarily be successful. “If you are good at reading instructions and following instructions, you’ll be fine on your own with a study book,” Downing said. “If you need someone to explain it to you in clearer or less complicated language, then tutoring might be the way to go. What’s often helpful is for students to miss a question, so we can talk about why they missed it. Learning takes place when you miss a question and have to figure out why.” Van Lieshout agreed with that statement. “Really look at the questions that you’ve missed because they can help you diagnose areas you need to work on,” Van Lieshout said. “Don’t just discount it and say, ‘Oh, I’m sad that I missed that,’ use it to help improve.” Van Lieshout received a perfect score of 36 on the ACT. He did a large amount of test prep in the Gifted Education

Online Resources

Prep Book

September 2017 | The North Star | 13 class. Outside of that, he also purchased an ACT prep book. It included strategies for the English, math, reading, science and writing sections of the test, as well as how to pace yourself and other general information. Russo, also in the Gifted Education class, said the ACT prep book helped her learn how fast she needed to go and how to tackle different types of problems.

“It helps to have experience and practice beforehand, so you’re more relaxed.” -Clark Van Lieshout

Listen to Music Eat a Snack

Go Outside

“In class, we also used a grammar book to help us on the English section,” Russo said. “The book taught us basic grammar rules that the ACT asks about, but a lot of people don’t know.” Van Lieshout recognized the benefits of being a student at BVN while preparing for the ACT. “Just being at BVN, you’re definitely fully aware of the magnitude of the test,” Van Lieshout said. “Also just the type of classes at BVN help with your critical thinking and such.” Russo said that being at a school that is academically strong helps her stay motivated. “Also, having class time to prepare for these tests helps because I didn’t have time to take many practice tests outside of school,” Russo said. Downing also pointed out the difference between the Johnson County area and other parts of the state or country when it comes to test prep. “Among the things that vary are the type of grammar being spoken in the home where you live,” Downing said. “If you have access to a variety of books and if you’ve read, you’re going to do better on the reading parts of the test. The quality of the education you receive and access to homework help both make a huge difference. And of course, being able to pay for things like private tutoring and classes is a game changer.” Although being able to pay for things like private tutoring and classes can be helpful, parents can also be a contributing factor to students’ stress. “Unless the parent has subject knowledge in a particular area, the best way for parents to help their kids study is

by encouragement,” Downing said. Sometimes less is more when it comes to parents helping their kids deal with the stress of studying for a standardized test. “I think parents can help by just making sure they do everything they can to make it easier for the student, like driving them to the test,” Van Lieshout said. “Also I would say they can help by not putting additional pressure on the kid for taking the ACT. There’s plenty of other motivators outside of parents.” According to Downing, there are also simple things to do without spending lots of money. “Taking a foreign language, Latin specifically, is one of the greatest things you can do because then you know root words, and sometimes you can figure out vocab words from them,” Downing said. “Reading and vocab building are so important because you can’t get the question right if you don’t understand the question or the passage.” Downing and Van Lieshout both expressed opinions that starting to study early can make or break students’ test scores. “It’s practice that makes you get a good score. Learning the strategies is the best thing you can do,” Downing said. “But putting them in practice by doing practice tests is the only way to become truly proficient at test taking. It’s all about being prepared. The more practice tests you do the better your score because standardized tests tend to recycle questions.” Van Lieshout also said that it’s important to try to avoid more stress than necessary. “The best way to relax is to not cram,” Van Lieshout said. “Give yourself enough time between sessions. Like don’t study for six hours straight. Get some breaks and study far enough in advance so you don’t have to cram. As far as while studying, you just have to get through it at that point. It helps to have experience and practice beforehand so you’re more relaxed.” Russo said that it is imperative to get a good night’s sleep before the test and arrive at the testing center early to minimize stress about traffic, parking and finding the correct room. “Whenever I got stressed out, I would just remind myself that one test isn’t going to determine the rest of my life and that I can always retake the test if I didn’t like my score.”

14 | The North Star | September 2017

Learning to

LEARN By Kristen Xu

Students discuss their tips and tricks for being successful with difficult classes.

Emma Van Lieshout


fter taking AP classes almost every year in high school, senior Emma Van Lieshout has found her ideal ways of learning and studying both in and out of class. She utilizes various studying methods because she identifies with all three types of learning (auditory, visual and kinesthetic). “I’ll always try to listen to music when I study, because it stimulates my brain,” Van Lieshout said about her auditory learning. “I really hate missing class because just hearing the teacher speak is the best way I learn.” When trying to learn visually, she turns to colors and charts. “For the first [AP European History] test... I took a big piece of paper, and I wrote out all the main [concepts] I needed to know about,” she said. “I used different colors for them, and I filled in the blanks and made a concept map. I still do something similar [now]. I’ll use a lot of colors for my notes, and I’ll either rewrite or reread my notes to study for things.” Note-taking is important to Van Lieshout, as she tries to personalize her studying as much as possible. “The least effective [studying method] is just skimming over the textbook again, ’cause I would want to reread the notes that I took, of what I thought was important or what the teacher thought was important and not just what the textbook says,” Van Lieshout said. Because Van Lieshout realizes that everyone works in different ways, she encourages others to try out different learning methods and stick to the ones that end up working for them. “You don’t really know if a method of studying works for you if you’re doing it at one in the morning so I would try to not procrastinate,” she said. “I think it’s important for everyone to stick to their own learning methods as long as they know that they work for them.”

September 2017 | The North Star | 15


lthough both Van Lieshout and Hulshof believe discovering their own learning method works best, senior Ayush Pandit has tried anything he thinks will help him. “Try out different note-taking styles or different ways people have about thinking about different things,” Pandit said. “I wouldn’t have come as far as I have academically if I didn’t try out different methods to find what worked for me.” Sometimes methods that work for others don’t work for him. Though some AP students may swear by test prep books, Pandit strongly dislikes them. “The only time I’ve ever bought a prep book was for APUSH,” Pandit recalls. “I was just completely turned off by them. I went through two of the practice tests, never opened it again and I ended up getting a 5 on the AP test just studying by myself.” Although Pandit is what he calls an “active listener,” taking notes and answering questions during class, he confesses to not being able to pay attention sometimes. “Sometimes [paying attention is] hard, especially with really long days or block days,” Pandit said. “It’s better to try and jot down the more important things and then come back to it later than just sitting through something when you’re not in that mental state.” Reviewing is not the same as memorizing. Pandit claims the only times he memorizes straight definitions is when he has a test that isn’t too complex. He relies more on comprehension for bigger tests. “If you’re trying to find some way to analyze the material, [you’ll automatically be] better off than just trying to read the book,” Pandit said.

Ayush Pandit

Genevieve Hulshof


unior Genevieve Hulshof and her friends prefer studying through conversations. During their sophomore year, they would meet a few nights before a test and tell a funny story to remember what happened in the past few chapters. “We’d go through something like the Thirty Years’ War and the Defenestration of Prague… and we’d just make it hilarious,” Hulshof said. “So we’d talk about [it] like, ‘The Defenestration of Prague? That’s when the guy got like thrown off the window into the poop, and all the Catholics were like, ‘Oh my gosh, he flew down because the angels saved him!’ We’d just try to make it as funny as possible.” Hulshof ’s creative studying methods don’t end at funny stories. She also writes raps to help her memorize terms and concepts, claiming the method began when she learned an educational rhyme in her sixth grade social studies class. “There’ve been times in biology where I’ve made legitimate raps,” Hulshof said. “That’s something weird and it did work for me.” Like Van Lieshout, Hulshof also utilizes colors in her notes. From changing the colors of her pens to highlighting, she constantly jots information down in her classes. “Even if it’s arbitrary highlighting, it just gives me something to do,” Hulshof said. Though some students may have more traditional learning methods, Hulshof prefers trying out her own to find out what works for her, and recommends others to do the same. “It’s been best when I figure it out myself,” Hulshof said. “My friends tell me things that have worked for them, [but] usually it doesn’t work for [me] because they’re different people… Just find as many ways as possible that you can learn.”

16 | The North Star | September 2017

ge a ss e M


from Mrs. Harrell

We want everyone to feel [Chad’s] heart and honor Chad’s memory by sharing it with others. When you think of Chad, we want you to reach out and tell a friend that you love them. We want you to remember his depth for compassion and love by treating each other with kindness. Mostly, we want you to remember his warmth. Smile often, laugh heartily, and love freely — this is what Chad would want. Each and every one of us has a spark within. And though it may be hard to find in times of darkness, we have to fight to keep it burning. Understand how valuable you are on so many different levels. You are smart and intuitive and you know which of your peers might be struggling — don’t expect them to reach out to you; reach out to them first. Know also that it’s okay to call your friends and say, “I am in a dark place and I need you to help me find the light.” Understand that sharing your feelings is a strength and not a weakness. It’s our shared experiences that unify us and keep us from feeling alone. You have all heard “Make Good Choices.” Good choices can refer to how we treat others and this tragedy should make us all reexamine our choices. Whether someone is nerdy, awkward, the “in” crowd or outcast, we need to approach them with kindness and a desire to lift one another up, not tear each other down.

September 2017 | The North Star | 17

Keep the

k r a p S Alive

By Nicole Dolan


tudents gathered in a vigil June 12 to honor the life of rising senior Chad Nathan Harrell, who passed earlier that day. He was born to Sylvia and Nathan Harrell on March 27, 2000. Chad was a member of the BVN lacrosse team and participated in other team sports, such as rec basketball with his team “Get Rec’d,” self described as the “best basketball team in the nation.” His hobbies included playing video games, skiing, listening to a wide variety of music (from ’70s songs to A$AP Rocky) and playing with his dog, Rigby. Nicknamed “spark plug” by some, friends and family remember Chad for his smile and electric personality. “If Chad were given a senior superlative, it would probably be for Best Smile or Best to Bring Home to Mom and Dad,” Lauren Meachem, a family friend of the Harrells, said. “He was the entire package and had an infectious smile that instantly conveyed warmth and love. His enthusiasm on and off the lacrosse field was contagious.” His laughter, smile and his humor were his defining traits, always quick to a joke or stunt to bring joy to others. Senior, friend and lacrosse team captain Andrew Gomen remembered Chad for these attributes. “I want him to be remembered as the ball of light he was,” Gomen said. “The happy and fun guy he was. Of course he needs to be remembered for his amazing smile. He needs to be remembered for the loving and caring heart he has. He always should be remembered as a happy,

loving young man.” When senior Andrew Gomen was informed of Chad’s passing by one of Chad’s neighbors, Lauren Meacham, he gathered the players of the lacrosse team, and together they decided to hold a candlelight vigil. They then approached principal David Stubblefield with the idea and asked for approval and support in spreading the word about the event. “That morning,” Meacham said, “the players made banners for classmates to sign, put together a playlist of Chad’s favorite music, and planned the specific agenda. Late in the afternoon, the Mustangs Lacrosse players worked with a group of Chad’s closest friends to set up the bags, sand, and candles.” The vigil was held at 8 p.m. on the turf field. It was attended by numerous community members from multiple aspects of Chad’s life coming together to honor, remember and share stories about him. “The vigil [had] a very important meaning to me because [in] moments like this, we all need to come together as a community and celebrate Chad’s great life,” Gomen said. “The Harrell family is going through a lot a this moment, so this is the least we can do for them.” Chad’s love was given freely and without expectation. “He gave a small piece of his heart to each person that he cherished,” Sylvia Harrell, Chad’s mother, said. “Chad brought joy to everything he encountered, and this is what we want everyone to remember. He had a love

and warmth that touched everyone he met. And even though he’s left us, we all still have those pieces of his heart that he gave us.” Gomen urges students to learn to not take each other for granted. “To Blue Valley North students and families, it is a very tragic event that has happened to our community, but this needs to open our eyes,” Gomen said. “We need to learn to love each other and grow closer to each other.” Chad is survived by grandparents, Melvin and Carolyn Harrell and Gene and Jan Michaels; his parents, Nathan and Sylvia Harrell; older sisters, Melanie Harrell and Krista Harrell-Stirland, and her husband Connor Stirland; and a number of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. The “Keep the Spark Alive” Foundation exists to bring attention to depression/anxiety issues and to aid in suicide prevention by sharing Chad Harrell’s story, encourage compassion and kindness, and encouraging each of us to choose happiness. It was also established to remind you to chase happiness. The website to the foundation is at https://www.youcaring. com/chadharrell-848083 to honor and remember Chad’s life. The scholarship will be created in Chad’s name to raise awareness for youth suffering from depression and anxiety. The foundation’s email for any questions or concerns is

# | The North Star | Month 2017

Letter From the Staff Dear readers, This issue of The North Star will feature multiple stories concerning mental health and wellness. As a newspaper staff, we found it pertinent to inform readers on a number of topics that are fundamental to our understanding of mental health. Mental health is often considered a taboo subject, and discussions surrounding it may evoke a sense of discomfort and embarrassment. We hope that the information we share in this themed issue will encourage readers to give more thought to and start more conversations about mental health. Our community suffered a major loss this past summer. As

a newspaper staff, we collectively felt that it was our duty to honor Chad Harrell and his family. The obituary that we included was crafted with care and the intent to keep Chad’s story alive. Information regarding his foundation is also within the obituary along with a personal foreword by Chad’s mother, Sylvia Harrell. Additionally, we, as a staff, would like to clarify that we do not intend to link Chad to the following articles in this section of the paper. Rather, we wish to honor his memory by spreading awareness about mental health. Above all, we hope to stress the importance of empathy and kindness in daily life at BVN. We can never understand another

person’s experience completely, and it isn’t always obvious when someone is dealing with mental illness. The ways that we interact with each other on a daily basis can shape the way a person perceives themselves. Small insults may seem trivial, but they can have immeasurable impacts on a person’s mental health. In the same way, acting out of positivity and kindness can promote overall happiness and well-being. As a school, we must act with thoughtfulness and purpose. We must do what we can to build each other up. Sincerely, The North Star Staff

Month 2017 | The North Star | #


HEALTH special issue


20 | The North Star | September 2017

The signs of adolescent depression and the steps to take in response.

Signs of teenage depression:

- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy - Loss of motivation/ concentration - Their grades drop, or they have an increase of missing or late assignments - They start using drugs or alcohol or increase their usage - They change their sleeping habits so that they either sleep too little or too much - They start overeating or undereating - They make self-deprecating comments - They talk about death or suicide


What to do if you think your friend has depression:

- First, talk to them in order to clarify what they are going through while allowing them to open up about their feelings. It is important to be supportive and attentive during this conversation. - Suggest that they tell someone about how they are feeling. Adults such as parents, teachers, and counselors are good places to start. If they are hesitant, it may help to offer to go with them for this conversation. - If they talk about suicide, even if it is presented in a joking format, tell an adult. Although this may feel like a breach of trust, your peer’s life and safety is more important than confidentiality about their mental state.

By La u

ra Ev


What to do if you think your child has depression:

- Talk to your child about their mental state if you see the warning signs for depression or suicide. - If your child continues to show these signs, BVN’s counselors, school nurse and school psychologists are all available to consult you for advice specific to your child. - Family doctors can also be consulted. - If your child talks about hurting themselves, the Blue Valley website has a set of steps for you to follow: “If you are concerned about your child’s immediate safety call 911. Tell the operator your concerns and fears. The police will come out and help get your child to a hospital or mental health center. In the meantime, do not leave your child alone... Remove all hazardous materials from the house or store them out of your child’s reach... If your child will cooperate, you can take them to the emergency room. A doctor will speak with you, evaluate the situation and make recommendations.”

Information from and the Blue Valley District website.

September 2017 | The North Star | 21

Major Depressive Disorder

1 in 4 1 in 2 The approximate number of adults in the US who have some form of mental illness at any given time.

The leading cause of disability in the US for people aged 15 to 44.


14.8 Million The approximate number of adults in the US who are affected by major depressive disorder in any given year.

The approximate number of US adults who will develop some form of at least one mental illness in their lifetime.

The percentage of adults with mental health symptoms who believe that people are generally caring and sympathetic towards those who are struggling with mental illness.


licensed therapist in order to resolve problematic feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Therapy can take many forms depending on the issues at hand. It may be used to treat a mental illness, but it also can be useful for those who do not have a clear condition but are seeking help.

40 Million

The approximate number of American adults who have some form of an anxiety disorder in any given year.

Medication can be used to assist

with the management of the symptoms of mental illness. It is recommended that patients see a licensed psychiatrist to receive medication. Medications should be taken in tandem with regular therapy sessions, not as a replacement.

8.9 Million

The approximate number of adults who have both a substance abuse disorder and a mental disorder.

mental well-being. This includes thoughts, feelings and emotions as well as social life and the ways that people relate and react to the world around them. Everyone is influenced by their mental health, but some will only experience brief struggles, while others may face difficulties in the long-term.


Mental Health Therapy involves meeting with a

Mental health refers to


The approximate percentage of people with any mental disorder who meet the criteria for having two or more mental disorders.

Infographic by Connor Clary // All statistics retrieved from

Mental disorders are

defined by the DSM-V as “a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning,� suggesting that mental disorders reflect a deeper psychological issue. This is where clinical treatment may be recommended.

Resources Johnson County Mental Health After Hours Emergency: (913) 268-0156 Blue Valley: (913) 715-7950 Olathe: (913) 715-7700 Mission: (913) 831-2550

Marillac (913) 681-5437

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-784-2433

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Two Rivers Hospital

(816) 382-6300

Thel Science Behind Mental Health 22 | The North Star | September 2017

By Taylor Mills

What the underlying causes and effects of mental illness are and how this understanding is changing; with commentary from Dr. Darryl Nelson of Hospital Corporation of America.

l The Illness A

ccording to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, mental health involves the emotional, psychological and social wellbeing of a person. The mental composition of each human is different, however, as there are incalculable number of environmental factors one will experience in their lifetime that make up their brain functionality. Within this operation are the neurotransmitters that send chemical messages between the neurons that are responsible for the information

transmitted to the nerve, muscle and gland cells. When this process does not work correctly or is damaged, mental illness occurs. When genetic and environmental factors are combined with chemical imbalances in the brain — mainly serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine — the outcome can be well known illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia. “The mood versus the cognitive thinking and how all of those interact and mingle in the brain are becoming more

September 2017 | The North Star | 23 and more understood, to the point now that some of the newer medicines that are recommended for certain types of mental illness actually were in their past different types of neurologic medicines,” Dr. Darryl Nelson said. Adolescents are at a great risk of developing a mental illness. According to, one in five young people suffer from mental illness, due to the great amount of stress one faces through school, sports and transition into adulthood. However, only four percent of the healthcare budget covers

mental health. “The reason is probably that it’s difficult to talk about. I think raising awareness results in a conversation sometimes that is difficult for parents to think about. I think there is also concern in different parts of the community that talking about it might contribute to it — people who worry that maybe they hadn’t even thought about that, and if we were having a discussion on how do we prevent it the mere idea of suggesting it,” Nelson said.

l The Treatment K

nowledge of the causes of mental health is fairly new, with most brain scanning technologies such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Positron Emission Technology being invented in only the past 30 years and most research stemming from the late 20th and early 21st century. Treatment of mental illness has become more precise and more secure as more research has been published — especially around the chemical imbalances within the brain. Antidepressants, a majority being classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), are medicine that helps serotonin levels stay regulated where the chemical works on the neurons or nerve cells of a particular part of the brain. “I graduated from medical school in 1986, and at that time there was very limited awareness,” Nelson said. “Certainly the whole idea around the brain chemistry was just being thought about at that time. We had basic medicines, but the whole group of serotonin SSRIs that are the staple for the treatment of depression hadn’t even been discovered yet.” While treatments including medicine such as antidepressants have become more advanced, there is still a risk factor — especially in adolescent patients. “There are some theories about the impact and it seems

to be more so in the adolescent age group. [The theories] are suggestive in the fact of the developing brain and the neurochemical impact and that there may be counter or unexpected effects of the medication,” Nelson said. Another part of suggested treatment for mental health is therapy. With a professional psychologist, a patient can further understand the symptoms of their mental illness. Symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, vary within illnesses but tend to affect emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Therapy has a broad range of options, from cognitivebehavioral therapy to art therapy. “The numbers are just really profound. We have this disconnect between the demand for mental health services, and the accessibility — particularly for those who have more severe mental health issues, to get them into the type of therapy and counseling treatment they need,” Nelson said. Clinical trials and research today are hoping to even further the knowledge behind the biological factors of mental illness. With today’s technology and changing societal views, the potential for better treatment is exponential.

24 | The North Star | September 2017

Cerebral Celebs By Caroline Koenig

Photo illustration of Demi Lovato by Caroline Koenig


A look into celebrities’ impact on how we discuss mental health.

ven celebrities have mental health issues, and when they share their experiences, it can be helpful for others to not feel alone. While many celebrities have raised awareness around mental illnesses by sharing their experiences on social media, they can also raise money for research or make other efforts into decreasing the stigma around it. “It’s getting better,” senior Phoenix Nghiem said. “[However, celebrities] should support more charities and give more to them as well as speaking out about these problems to stop the stigma.” For example, Carrie Fisher, known for her role as Princess

Leia in the Star Wars series, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her 20s and became an advocate for raising awareness around mental health issues. Ever since revealing that she had the disorder, she wrote a book, “Wishful Drinking,” about the topic advocating for those with mental disorders, according to an article from “The New York Times.” “Celebrities have so much power in depicting mental illness to people,” senior Calla Hinderks said, “[but] if they’re transparent about it, it does, like, allow for people to feel like they’re normal.” Demi Lovato has also made strides to decrease the stigma around mental illness, according

to an interview with “Marie Claire” magazine. After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2012, she decided to tell her audience. Since then, she has made an effort to discuss the ways she deals with mental health. “[Sharing their struggles] gives [their audience] something like knowing [they’re] not alone in this — other people have [mental health issues], and even if they are a celebrity, especially if they’re a celebrity,” Hinderks said. Celebrities who have chosen to share their struggles have the opportunity to help others who have similar issues and can make a difference on the world.

September 2017 | The North Star | 25

Your Mental Health on Drugs Your brain’s reaction to mental illness and substance abuse.

By Brooke Werp


VN has held various assemblies about mental health and substance abuse awareness, but how much does the student body really know about these subjects together? There are many aspects that can contribute to mental health issues and the misuse of addictive substances. Mental illness and addictive tendencies can present themselves biologically, genetically and psychologically. “Some of it’s genetic, some people are more predisposed to having an addiction or having a mental health problem based on their family history,” Robin Laubenthal, an in-patient therapist at Cottonwood Springs Behavioral Hospital, said. Her expertise expands over both categories of mental health and substance abuse, especially on how they interlock with one another. She said that other things are biological — or just the way people are. For example, some people are high responders or low responders to alcohol. A low responder is more likely to become addicted to alcohol

because they have to consume more to reach intoxication. However, high responders, or “lightweights,” are the opposite. They do not require much alcohol to feel intoxicated; therefore, they consume less drinks and are less susceptible to addiction. Drugs and alcohol are not the only aspect that can increase an individual’s chances of developing a dormant or predisposed mental illness. Mental illness can also be triggered by environmental stressors and psychological trauma. The National Center for PostTraumatic Stress Disorder and the Department of Veterans Affairs reports that trauma, such as an accident, illness or natural disaster, is a major underlying factor of addiction behavior. They said that these patients can turn to substances as a coping mechanism. “Some of it’s environmental — it’s the household they grew up in, the friends that they had and the people they associate with,” Laubenthal said. “It may be trauma. People who experience trauma are more likely to form addictions.

And just by virtue of having a mental illness, especially depression and anxiety, makes someone more likely to get into that cycle.” Based on the findings of professors at the National Drug and Research Center, many people abuse alcohol and drugs to suppress or self-medicate mental illness symptoms, but resorting to this can only make the situation worse. When an individual experiences withdrawal from drugs, intense side effects that can mimic mental disorders take place. Depending on the drug, panic attacks, mood changes, psychosis, anxiety, depression, hallucinations, delusions and trouble sleeping can be induced. As a result, there will be a new need to suppress symptoms by returning to these substances again. The cycle is a downward spiral. The effectiveness and risk of medical marijuana is also blurred. “The biggest problem with marijuana as a treatment for anxiety, especially if the person is not using actual medical marijuana, is it will help your anxiety in the short

term,” Laubenthal said. “You’ll feel better in the moment, but it starts to alter your neurochemistry in a way that actually causes more anxiety in the long term.” Despite reports claiming that marijuana decreases anxiety and depression, a study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse found that marijuana actually increases the risk of these conditions. Researchers found that users were unable to react well to dopamine, a feel-good chemical within the brain. They saw this effect worsen in the striatum, the motivation and reward region of the brain. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) national survey, 23.5 million people needed treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, but only 11 percent of them receive the help they needed. Americans are susceptible to developing a substance abuse problem or mental illness, and the combination of the two is too high of a risk.

26 | The North Star | September 2017

Road to Stress Relief

By Merall Janjua

September 2017 | The North Star | 27

Students share ways to release stress from weekly workloads.


tress is a part of life and affects everyone. Another school year has begun, welcoming a time to form new habits and leave others behind. From AP classes and work meetings to relationships, three seniors share their experiences and advice on conquering stress and turning over a new leaf this fall. Workloads have become a big stressor in the United States. According to the American Psychological Association, Americans are at a “critical crossroads when it comes to stress,” resulting in negative effects on mental and physical health. Senior Athena Tran understands heavy workloads well and reflects on the difficulties that arise from trying to balance school with a social life. “With six AP classes this year, a varsity sport, being head of NHS and Diversity club, it’s hard to not be stressed with so much going on,” Tran said. Senior Tess Gerson notices how workloads can affect relationships. “With all the stress, I don’t get much social time, but my relationship with my family is still good,” Gerson said. Sometimes emotions can be misdirected, negatively affecting those relationships. Emotions are a part of being human, and they should be expressed; still, being mindful of them can prevent the spread of stress. “I can get impatient and irritable and snap at my friends because of my stressed mood,” Tran said. “Strange Contagion,” a book by Lee Daniel Kravetz, reflects on how emotions, actions and ideas can be contagious and spread within a community. Kravetz explains how a stranger’s smile, a collectively stressed class and happy-looking kids on the front of ACT prep books can invoke contagious attitudes, caught like a

Junior Camille Shafran studying with a laptop in an outdoor setting. Photo by Grace E. Rudman. social virus. Stress can transfer to surroundings without much thought, making it important to be aware of your own actions and emotions. Tran offered a positive outlook on the contagiousness. “With my close friends, if I see them stressed, I get stressed for them. It’s human empathy,” Tran said. Although high expectations can cause anxiety and negatively impact mental health, they can also produce positive results. Senior Sophia Ansari said she believed that pushing through stressful times can create a better mindset. “Workloads make me feel more productive and able to accomplish anything,” Ansari said. Stress can be a powerful motivator when used correctly. Whether it’s studying for a hard final, the ACT,

At the end of the day, what makes me happier is to have more time for myself and people I care about. -Athena Tran

or difficult situations in general — stress can help students persevere for more positive outcomes. “So I remember in 10th grade, we had these words to memorize in HELA... There were more than 75 words to memorize, but only 35 of them would be on the test. I was able to motivate myself to get my head in the game and memorize all the words. Stress gets people to accomplish something they didn’t believe they could,” Ansari said. With that said, there are ways to overcome the anxiety overshadowing potential success. To swap textbooks for more amusing ones, there are libraries or bookstores like Barnes & Noble to de-stress. For a different atmosphere, Tran heads out to places filled with a caffeinated aroma. “When I get stressed out, I step away from the books and go to coffee shops like The Roasterie or Starbucks,” Tran said. Tran suggests lists as an alternate way to block the chaos out of daily schedules. Lists can be created with calendars connected to a cellphone, a journal or something easily seen on a daily basis. “I religiously use a planner and Google calendar. It helps a lot,” Tran said. To better organize calendars, having each day dedicated to certain things can also help. The weekend is time for this division of tasks. “Sundays are my big relax days to do nothing,” Gerson said. On the other hand, Tran keeps Fridays and Saturdays for fun with friends and family while Sunday allows time to finish homework for the following week. “I know that at the end of the day what makes me happier is to have more time for myself and people I care about,” Tran said. Workloads come and go, but health should take priority. Stress can take a negative toll on physical and mental health; maintaining a balance between work and play can be difficult, but taking good advice to relax could help. “On my deathbed, ‘I should have had a 4.0’ is not going to be what I care about,” Tran said.


28 | The North Star | September 2017

What’s the Deal? Misconceptions about therapy

By Mathew Cotton | Photo by Grace E. Rudman | Photo Illustration by Mathew Cotton

September 2017 | The North Star | 29


herapy, the process of their own,” senior Sophia Clarke patients.” healing or relieving pain said. “It helps you understand Although there may be from a disease or disorder, why you think a certain way and several benefits to receiving began through psychoanalysis what’s happening so that you therapy, negative stigma and was first developed by don’t get to a continues to Sigmund Freud. There are also place where be an issue “I think people get a many types of therapy that you have a surrounding little shocked when they the process. have various purposes for the breakdown.” hear the word ‘therapy.’ recipients. Therapy “There’s Not all people go to therapy has the usually this They think, ‘There’s for the same reason — reasons capability to thought [of all this stigma around are usually personal and do not change lives therapy] that always fit a set of guidelines. for the better, [regular therapy]. Is you’re crazy, BVN’s school psychologist, in more than and that there’s there something wrong Dr. Mark Kenney, acknowledges one way. something with me?’ But I think art seriously that there are many reasons a Therapy can person could seek therapy, but he help a person is a fun way to break that wrong with also highlights the purpose. out of a bad you,” Clarke stigma.” “The purpose of [therapy] is situation and said. —Amy Corkern, to help people get better,” Kenney help him/ Many art therpaist said. “If they’re having some sort her become people fail to of emotional crisis or trauma, more realize that chronic or acute, it’s to help them cognizant of mental health feel better about themselves and the situation as well as what can issues are significant, just like their life.” be done for self-help. having a broken arm or leg is Additionally, Kansas City “Some people who go to significant — it’s just not as art therapist Amy Corkern therapy feel like something in apparent. defines traditional therapy more their life is just not working — “There’s still somewhat of generally. and therapy can help you move a stigma attached to having “Therapy is basically just on and be constructive,” Clarke a mental health issue — it’s giving a service to somebody said. sometimes seen as having a else,” Corkern said. Another factor to consider weakness or a flaw,” Kenney Therapy can also be beneficial with therapy is the specific said. “[Physical] illnesses are still by helping reduce symptoms of therapist, because often times viewed in a different way than stress and anxiety, increasing people may go to a therapist that mental illnesses.” one’s ability to isn’t effective Alternatively, art therapy cope with pain “Some people who for them, but combats some of the bad and reducing that does not reputation that traditional go to therapy feel like levels of mean that therapy usually receives. something in their life depression. therapy isn’t “I think people get a little Similar for them at all. shocked when they hear the is just not working — to someone’s “Therapy word ‘therapy’,” Corkern said. and therapy can help reason for is very much “They think ‘there’s all this you move on and be going, the about the stigma around [regular therapy], purpose of relationship,” is there something wrong with constructive.” therapy can Kenney said. me?’ but I think art is a fun way — Sophia Clarke vary based on “You may to break that stigma.” each recipient. come to me as The reality is that therapy can “A lot of people go [to an outside clinical professional, be helpful for anyone who needs therapy] when they are and you may not like me, and to be able to talk to someone experiencing mental issues like if you still don’t feel well, go see privately and get an outside anxiety or depression, so they go someone else. It doesn’t mean perspective on his or her life. to basically have someone help you’re not sick — different them out when they can’t do it on therapists fit better with different

30 | The North Star | September 2017

The Other End of the Line A feature on hotlines, how they’re facilitated and the impact they have. By Shantha Burt


rom 2012 to 2014, every call was a new story for Allie Frost, and on the other end of the phone was a person awaiting her assistance. For many, this would be a stressful situation, but for Frost and her coworkers, it was just another day working at the Headquarters Counseling Center, a hotline in Lawrence, Kan. “It was free, 24/7 counselling, and it wasn’t just all crises,” Frost said. “Part of it went to providing regular counseling services.” Headquarters Counseling Center is a local network for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Frost applied for a volunteer position at the facility, and once accepted, she immediately began training. “It was a six month course training that included a wide variety of different things,” Frost said. “Not only how to talk someone down from killing themselves, but also just basic things that most people don’t know about.” A segment of the training was devoted to doing feeling reflections and learning to build rapport with callers. “We learned how to do feeling reflections, which sounds pretty simple, but is actually kind of difficult. It’s basically validating an individual’s feelings,” Frost said. “Then we learned how to build rapport, [which is] building trust and a connection with an individual.” Another element of working with callers is acknowledging their ambivalence, or understanding they are having mixed feelings. “One thing we learned was called ambivalence statements,” Frost said. “If someone is calling the hotline, there is obviously a part of them that is considering not killing themselves, and that is the part we would really try to focus on. We wanted to recognize the fact that they are in extreme pain, but we also wanted to remind them that there is that other side.” Frances Gonzalez, the Director of

September 2017 | The North Star | 31

Communications for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, explained that this training process is important because each call is approached differently. “Counselors don’t operate from a script,” Gonzalez said. “When they go through training they’re taught how to engage with each caller.”

If someone is calling the hotline, there is obviously a part of them that is considering not killing themselves.” -Allie Frost Gonzalez also explains the process immediately following a call. “When you call the lifeline, you will be routed to the local center in your area,” Gonzalez said. “A person will pick up, ask you how you’re doing, and then you’ll have a conversation about whatever is troubling you.” Empathy and providing callers with alternate resources are also key components to the process. “The counselor will empathize with you, help you find a solution [and essentially] help you get through that moment,” Gonzalez said. “If it’s something you want, they can also provide you with additional resources in your area.” Aside from learning the dos and don’ts at training, many

counselors have to learn how to cope with secondary trauma from working with the callers. “It can be difficult to work at a crisis line,” Gonzalez said. “Especially if you’re an empathetic person, which is what most of our counselors tend to be.” For Frost, there were multiple callers that left a lasting impression on her. “I had a couple of people call who were survivors of rape,” Frost said. “One of them really stuck out to me because it was very violent. Also, just the number of people that called and were ritual callers, meaning they called often, was interesting to me.” Another call that resonates with Frost was from a person who had overdosed, requiring her to call poison control and the police. “We called poison control. I remember they said he needed to go to the hospital,” Frost said. “I called the dispatch number, which was 911, and then told him that someone was coming to take him to the hospital. I stayed on the line with him until they came.” The influence of the National Suicide Prevention hotline is far reaching, and a lot of their impact stems from the fact that they are accessible to a large number of people. “I think the impact of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is incalculable,” Gonzalez said. “We’re free, we’re confidential, we’re 24/7 and we’re one number anyone can call across the country to get any help or support that they need. So that alone is

important.” The National Hotline attempts to widen their impact each year by increasing awareness during the month of September. This year, they hope to convey a message to people who are aware of others struggling with mental health. “We have five steps that essentially write a blueprint for people that want to help someone in their life that is in crisis, but they don’t know how,” Gonzalez said. “Our goal for September, and beyond that, is to let people know that they can take action themselves to help someone in their life that they think is suicidal. The same way people use CPR, for instance— you don’t have to be a doctor to use CPR— and you can use these steps to help someone too.”

We called poison control. I remember they said he needed to go to the hospital.” -Allie Frost Counselors and hotlines are viable resources, but it’s important to remember that even without a medical degree or full training, everyone is capable of helping. The first step to promoting good mental health is being aware of any signs of depression and reaching out. After all, empathy and care can go a long way.


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