December 8, 2021 | By Cassandra Kiger
Sad. Angry. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. Devastation. Loss of Words. Grief. Scared.
As our Affinity Mentoring team discussed the most recent school shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan, these were the feelings we talked about:
- How unbelievable this feels to have to consider when sending students to school, and also how obviously this will keep happening until something systemic changes;
- the immediate repercussions we witnessed in our partner schools as other students, young and old, all clearly hurting and without means to accurately and safely communicate their needs, imitated what they heard and saw;
- the lack of resources schools have to address the underlying needs and concerns behind these events, and our fears that more resources will be directed towards policing and suspensions rather than mental health resources and supports;
- how desperately we want to galvanize the resources at our own disposal to make sure no student, ever, feels that they are without hope, resources, or a trusted someone to talk to and express their feelings, their fears, their hopes, and their needs to.
We want to affirm your right and your need to experience so many feelings in times like these. Hard feelings. Uncomfortable feelings. Overwhelming feelings. Conflicting feelings. Feelings that make you feel embarrassed. Feelings that are different from those around you. We have to stop repressing our feelings and our grief, and we need to practice safely and appropriately expressing them. We need to demonstrate and model to the students around us that feelings are okay, they are normal, we all have them. And we need to model to students around us what to do with feelings; not to shove them down, not to ignore them until it’s too late, not to use them for pain or harm to others, but to express them in safe and healthy ways.
There are no doubts that math and literacy are critical for the future of students, our community, and our world. But math and literacy at the expense of mental and physical health and safety are irrelevant. Our book-smarts will not matter if we do not know how to communicate with each other, resolve conflict, create boundaries for ourselves and others, express our needs and feelings, get support, and experience a full range of emotions. These things, too, are absolutely critical. Will you join us in treating them like they are? Sometimes it can feel scary or overwhelming to talk about mental health and violence. We want to support you with resources and tools.
It is always ok to talk to someone about whether or not they are having thoughts about harming themselves or others. Talking with them about it does not increase their chances of causing harm to someone, it actually decreases it.
If you or someone you know is at risk of harming yourself/themselves or others, you can visit the Pine Rest Psychiatric Urgent Care Center at:
- Pine Rest Mental Health Services
- Building E, Entrance E1
- 300 68th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI
Or call them at 616.455.9200 or visit pinerest.org/urgent. They are open everyday except on major holidays.
Seeking out mental health services like therapy or counseling is never weak. It takes incredible strength and bravery to admit when you could use extra support. No matter what gender you identify as, what race or ethnicity you identify as, where you are from, or what you were taught (or not taught) about mental health, we support you. You are brave. You are worth it.
- You can support students by advocating for more in school resources to support student mental health and social emotional learning, rather than increased policing.
- Sign up for our newsletter at affinitymentoring.org to learn about ways to support students and families, and things that impact our mental health and social-emotional well-being every month, and follow up on Facebook and Instagram for weekly tips and reminders.
Our Mission is to facilitate equitable growth in academics, social emotional skills, and self-esteem through mutually beneficial mentoring relationships. We believe in cultivating a brave space that amplifies the voices of young agents of change in a diverse and inclusive community.
Our vision is to be a leading nonprofit for fostering belonging alongside young people, families, and community.