Burbank High School unveiled a new wellness center this week where teens can talk with therapists or peers about what stresses them and their emotional struggles.
The drop-in center will allow teens to gather in a group setting to discuss issues such as cyber-bullying or academic pressures, meet one-on-one with an adult therapist to discuss personal challenges or receive peer counseling.
The idea for the center began two years ago, said Laurie Bleick, executive director of Family Service Agency of Burbank.
“We see a growing need for support for kids. There’s more stress. There’s more demands. There’s more expectations, and they need to have a place where they can go and feel safe and talk, if that’s for one minute or one day or for ongoing treatment,” she said.
One of the agency’s therapists, Mick Kelly, will be stationed at the center, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Kelly expects that once the word is out, the center will be busy with students unafraid to discuss what they’re going through.
“I think once kids get to know that we’re here, we’ll get traffic. There’s a big need for it,” he said. “Kids definitely want mental health services. When people hear ‘mental health,’ they think heavy-duty stuff. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s just kids need to talk to an adult who’s not their mom or dad.”
Burbank High psychologist John Costanzo, who has worked on the campus for 11 years, said that having a designated place to welcome students is a major factor in their well-being.
“We’ve seen, unfortunately, an increase in the number of kids that have been hospitalized in our community. A lot of [the hospitalizations] have to do with the stressors and difficulty of being a teenager today,” he said. “We have 2,700 kids. I want every one of them to know that this exists. Once they know that we’re there, they’ll make use of it. They’re hungry for resources.”
School board member Steve Ferguson, who initiated an effort last year for Burbank Unified to create a mental-health master plan and suicide-prevention policy, said the Wellness Center at Burbank High is “a momentum builder.”
The next effort that he and others want to see accomplished is a similar center at John Burroughs High School.