Wellness Center and more: Fossil’s untapped mental health resources


C. Sears

The Wellness Center hosts wellness club every Friday at lunch, complete with fun activities such as making glitter jars.

Caroline Sears, Editor in Chief

Walking into the Wellness Center, you are met with calming light, inviting chairs, fun activities…and a punching bag in the corner of the room. While the space was made to help students find a place to relax, it has become something more. It became a home for constructive conversations and peer-to-peer support, something that Joel Bekken, Fossil Ridge High School’s substance abuse counselor, has hoped for. With such an incredible resource in just the back corner of the media center, it is difficult to understand why some students will walk past the door every day without ever taking advantage of it.

From comfy chairs to teddy bears, there is plenty to relax with in 400A.

When Bekken started at Fossil in October, he immediately took to running the Wellness Center in order to pursue his passion for helping students work through negative thoughts or difficult times in their lives. Running the Wellness Center is fulfilling for Bekken on many levels, explaining that, “personally, it’s pretty dang awesome.”

While about 70% of the students who meet with him are referred by the deans, anyone and everyone is welcome to sign up for an appointment or simply come in during open hours.

The peer-to-peer support has been one of the most impactful things he has seen in the Wellness Center. “I’m here to facilitate anything, but yeah, it just organically… flows [between] students from all walks of life,” Bekken stated. He asks the Fossil community to “pop in here and meet new students that are going through some of the same stuff, [and] have honest conversations.”

From the transition out of online school and into the quarter system, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Bekken routinely meets with students struggling with substance abuse in order to help them decrease suspension time. This kind of counseling is certainly necessary.  Undoubtedly, the anxiety that the rapidly changing COVID-19 pandemic has caused has affected students greatly. “It’s easier to turn to some sort of substance to self-medicate those,” he stated. 

Although plans for the Wellness Center are still undecided for next year, Bekken ensures that there will still be counselors or other staff members to maintain open hours, appointment opportunities, and a safe space for conversations.

Lisa Cole, the mental health specialist at Fossil, has a signup sheet outside of her office in the east wing and hosts individual and group discussions regularly. Counselors are also available to talk if you need to at any time.

Bekken stated, “We have tools and what students need to succeed academically, but also, it’s so important for the mental health needs to be met. We’re here. And we care.”

We’re here. And we care.

— J. Bekken

Bekken wants all students to know that they are needed at the school. If you are struggling, he asks that you “reach out to your counselor, myself, a teacher, or the deans to just say, ‘Hey, I just need someone to talk to today,’ And we will make it happen.”

With all of these incredible resources, it is hard to imagine how so few students even know that they are available. Perhaps it is the stigma associated with seeking mental health support or maybe it is the worry that students will face consequences for reaching out. Whatever it is, it needs to change. These supports allow for students to feel seen, and help to make asking for help more comfortable.

Conversations surrounding mental health need to expand outside of just your close circle, or your own head. The only way the discomfort around mental health and the misunderstanding of these resources can be changed is through openness and empathy. As a school community, sharing your experience with getting help so that others may do the same is necessary. Thankfully, as our school works towards this, the doors to the Wellness Center, your counselor’s office, and Cole’s room will stay open. 

If you or someone you care about are struggling with mental health or substance abuse, call 1 (844) 493-8255 or text TALK to 38255.

If you are looking for an easy way to find students facing challenges similar to yours, the wellness club meets in 440A on Fridays at lunch.

To book a meeting with Bekken simply email [email protected] or scan the QR code pictured to the right.

To book a meeting with Cole, email [email protected] or sign up outside her door in the east wing offices.