Talking with Ms. Hamlin, Wellness Coordinator

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This interview marks the second installment of a new feature item published by The Loyalist staff, with help from the Journalism class at Loyola High School. Ms. Natasha Hamlin has joined Loyola High School this year as Wellness Coordinator. We will publish an interview each month conducted by students on a timely topic related to student mental health.

Printed with Permission from Natasha Hamlin

This month: How to talk to friends about potentially sensitive topics.

The Loyalist: Depression rates have skyrocketed recently due to the isolation. How can you tell if a friend is possibly going through a rough patch? Furthermore, how do you talk to a friend about it?

Ms. Hamlin: You want to look out for daily functioning: Are your friends not sleeping as much anymore? Are they not eating well? Are they not exercising as much? Are they isolating more? Is it harder for you to get a hold of them? Are they not as responsive or reaching out to you as much? Are they avoiding certain activities that they might have been doing before? Not just because they’re canceled, but things maybe they really used to like? An example of this could be doing photography or they like playing a sport. Maybe they’re not doing that as much anymore, so looking for changes in that and also mood.

They’re a little bit more irritated; maybe they are more angry. Those can be signs of depression, especially in teenage guys, so if it’s a guy friend, look out for that.

The other sign to look out for is an increase in substance use.

If you’re super concerned that they might be at risk for a safety issue, such as hurting themselves or someone else, then you want to go directly to their parents or to your counselor or their counselor. If it’s someone that you don’t think is as high risk, just try to have a conversation with him about it. Just say “I’m coming from a place of being concerned about you, just  so you know. I’ve just been noticing these things and I just want to make sure you’re okay. I want to know you know I’m here if you want to talk. I think it’s a really tough time and I’m just wondering if you’re feeling well. If there’s anything I can do to help please let me know.”

If they’re super resistant to it at first, they might be quiet. People don’t like to be called out on stuff, and they might be in denial, but just letting them know that you’re coming from a place of caring for them and that you’re there if they want to talk, I think it’s a good place to start.

The Loyalist: Let’s say someone gave you or a friend or family member COVID-19. How do you talk to that person about it without appearing to attack or completely place blame?

Ms. Hamlin: Yeah, it’s a really difficult subject. It’s tempting to place blame and to get angry. Do your best to give factual information.Try to leave the emotions out of it as best you can. Really try to focus on what the experts are saying about this.

The Loyalist: A friend ignores Covid-19, maybe not really understanding the consequences of the virus. How do you talk to this friend?

Ms. Hamlin: I just go back to talking about the evidence as best you can, referring them to the CDC, referring them to see actual websites that come from the experts and doctors.  A good way to approach this is to say, let’s say you are right and this is all a hoax and none of this is real. What is the worst thing though that comes from still being careful about it and acting like maybe there’s a chance it exists?  Ok, you have to wear a mask and maybe stay away from people a little bit, but it’s really not that you have to give that much, and you know that in the long term, if you’re wrong, then you could be doing damage, so why not weigh these two things and, even if you still think it’s not real, maybe try to follow the guidelines, just in case?

Everyone has been so cooped up the past year. As a result, people tend to be more sensitive. We have a very vibrant political climate, but when you mix that with everyone being cooped up, political views can clash harder than before.

To read last month’s installment, click here.

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