Facing increased demand for mental health services, Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center recently transitioned from a weekly to a biweekly counseling model for many students. When asked to comment on the shift, multiple Sykes counselors were unavailable before the deadline. Others did not respond to contact.
Poor mental health, or persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, among United States of America high schoolers increased from 26.1 percent to 36.7 percent between 2009 and 2019, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Center for Disease Control (C.D.C.). The percentage then soared to 44 percent in 2021. The ongoing mental health crisis among high schoolers across the U.S. raises questions about how contributing factors like an increasing pressure to achieve and the pandemic have affected the well-being of Andover’s student body.
Sykes chose to shift to a biweekly counseling method due to an influx of patients. Andrew McRitchie, a Sykes counselor, attested that many counselors will now use a biweekly schedule. Some students, however, may still get weekly counseling if deemed necessary.
McRitchie wrote, “The frequency and duration of counseling sessions is always decided on a case-by-case basis. A biweekly model increases the number of available appointments we can offer to students and is fairly standard in most counseling settings. While most students will be seen on a biweekly basis to start, some students will be seen weekly or even monthly depending on their needs; the frequency of appointments is part of the treatment planning that takes place with every student and is reviewed on a regular basis.”
The state of mental health on Andover’s campus reflects broader trends relating to the state of adolescent mental health in American society, according to McRitchie. He added that the increase in the number of students seeking counseling may reflect a positive change in attitudes towards the importance of mental health care.
“Overall, I think the [Andover] community is a wonderful representation of what we are seeing across the larger world stage. There is a significant rise in demand for mental health services, particularly from adolescents and young adults. This does not necessarily mean there [are] ‘more’ mental health issues, it could, and likely does, mean that we are becoming more aware of the struggles impacting this group and people are more willing, and able, to ask for help,” wrote McRitchie in an email to The Phillipian.
Some factors affecting student mental health, however, may be unique to Andover. According to the 2022 State of the Academy survey, the average Andover student gets 6.65 hours of sleep per night. Nathaniel Darocha ’26 believes the prevalence of sleep deprivation among Andover students reflects a cultural pressure students feel to prioritize academic performance over sleep.
“I feel like losing sleep to maintain grades is normalized here. Because people don’t value sleep as much as it should be valued. I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, I got one hour of sleep because I needed to study for a quiz on this and that.’ … I try to [do] an equal amount of both [studying and sleep]. Sometimes I’ll skip breakfast to get extra sleep because I like staying up doing my work…So I still get a decent amount of sleep,” said Darocha.
McRitchie also acknowledged that for many Andover students, taking care of one’s health can be dwarfed by a drive to succeed academically. In light of this, he urged students to embrace self-care, and pointed out that overwork is unsustainable.
“I often hear students talk about wanting to be the best; well, if you want to be the best then you must treat yourself like you are the best: that means understanding that you are worth taking care of. If you are only going to focus on three things, then food, sleep, and water should be it. Lack of sleep is a huge predictor of mental health struggles; sleep is when your body and brain repair themselves and information is transferred from short-term to long-term memory; your body and brain need food and water to fuel this process and to grow,” wrote McRitchie.