Volunteer Licensed Social Worker Helps Support Students’ Emotional Well-being

Apr 3, 2023 | Academic

It’s hard enough being a teenager on a good day. But the conditions that accompanied the social distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic seem to have exacerbated the painful parts of adolescence. National statistics reflect a steep rise in teen mental health issues during the last few years. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows 57% of teen girls in the U.S. felt “persistently sad or hopeless” in 2021.

That’s why CRSM is especially grateful for the volunteer work of Gina Dahiya, a licensed social worker who is volunteering her time to help CRSM’s two-person counseling staff meet the growing needs of students. They provide a safe, caring and supportive environment for students in need of social and emotional support.

Every Wednesday and Thursday, Gina meets individually with students in a private conference room to help them create coping strategies for emotional difficulties such as depression, stress, grief, and family problems. She arrives armed with a toolkit of anxiety and stress-busters, which she spreads across the table for easy access: coloring books, colored pens and rainbow-colored pop-push fidget toys.

“Mostly I feel that I just listen and validate their feelings,” says Gina, a mother of four high school and young adult children. “Many of them will state from the get-go ‘I don’t need advice. I just really want someone to listen.

Gina, who completed her Masters of Social Work just as the COVID pandemic hit, says she is very impressed by the students, faculty, staff and greater CRSM community

“I’m learning how resilient teens can be,” she says. “They are at a time in their lives when there is a lot of stress worrying about getting into college and all the things that are going on in their lives. Yet, I’ve really come to witness the strength and courage these students have.”

Her work is appreciated by staff and students alike!

“We are seeing a rise in depression and anxiety,” says Christina Dippold, CRSM counselor. “Here in Waukegan, there are fewer resources to meet the growing needs of our students.”

At CRSM we recognize this is a growing need that requires growing support. Starting next year, the school will bring in a part-time therapist to work with students to help them find balance in their busy lives.