By DANIELLE BANG
There is a small room in the corner of the second floor of the library. During the holidays, themed decorations greeted the students as they walked in. The room smelled like freshly-lit candles, and a wall was decorated with inspiring quotes and notes of gratitude written by students. Overall, the atmosphere was welcoming. Before her move to the main office building, in the corner was the desk of Ms. Nilou Tohidian (Counseling Dept.), UHS’s new wellness counselor.
Tohidian focuses on crisis or urgent care. “I’ve dealt with students who have had suicidal ideation, who have hallucinations, and I provide very short-term counseling or therapy, but I usually connect them to outside resources if they need it,” she said. “As long as the students are safe at school and at home, there’s some confidentiality here. I will not share things that they don’t want me to share with the parents.”
A wellness counselor offers help to students who might be experiencing short-term or long-term emotional issues, some of which include depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues and gender identity issues. Tohidian is a licensed mental health provider and is able to provide students with emotional help, whereas the other counselors provide students with academic guidance.
Tohidian worked at California State University, Long Beach before coming to UHS as a wellness counselor. This school year (2015-2016) is the first year that Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) has hired wellness counselors. The counselors from different high schools meet once a week. There are five IUSD wellness counselors and each are in charge of one or two middle schools.
Tohidian and Project Success Counselor Ms. Katy Shobe (Counseling Dept.) work together to provide help to the students who need it. Project Success is a counseling program like Wellness Counseling, but it deals with milder problems that students may have. For example, students may come to see Shobe if they are just having a bad day. Tohidian recommends students to Shobe if they need more general support. If a student needs more personal and independent help, Shobe refers the student to Tohidian.
For example, when a student at Jeffery Trails passed away from a car accident a few weeks ago, the IUSD wellness counselors went to the school and provided support for the student, staff and parents.
Tohidian is at her office every day before school starts at 7:30 and after school. She is available for walk-ins, unless there is already another student seeking help at the time. A student may ask to be taken out of a class to see her, but must notify Tohidian beforehand. Tohidian is also available during office hours. The only times she is unavailable is if there is an emergency at other schools or if she has a scheduled meeting.
Tohidian was temporarily placed in the corner room of the library since it was the first room available, but she now has a room in main administration office, first hall to the right. This is convenient because students will most likely feel safer seeing her in an independent office, especially if they want to speak privately or if they feel uncomfortable about anyone knowing that they are seeking help.