Glenwood Springs senior profile: Helping connect others with mental wellness needs, resources

Darian Armer
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs High School senior Yarrow Ator. Courtesy Photo

Glenwood Springs High School senior Yarrow Ator decided to do her capstone on mental health. Primarily because it hit close to home.

“It’s personal to me. I noticed that no teachers ever asked me if I needed mental health help. Students who weren’t high achieving were getting mental health help. I realized that the school was using grades as a predictor for mental health and I thought it was inaccurate,” Ator says. “I wanted answers for myself. Like why was I struggling mentally when everything was going well?”

So, she decided to look at how confidence affects a student’s performance in school, and what that has to do with mental health. She started poring over peer-reviewed journals and published research to gain an understanding of what success has to do with mental health.

“One thing I studied was the Healthy Kids Colorado survey data. It asks about health, mental health, and abuse,” she says. “Looking at the data for our district I saw that GPA and hopelessness have an interesting relationship.”

Ator went on to interview students who were high-achieving to see if their personal experiences correlated with what the data was showing.

“I interviewed teachers to see if they knew this was happening. That high-achieving students were feeling abandoned,” Ator says. “I found high-achieving students and people in general have high standards for themselves. This creates a cycle where they’re trying to constantly reach new goals and they won’t allow themselves to fail. If they fail that’s really hard for them. It’s a cycle that keeps going.”

Ator presented her findings to the high school leadership board and to district administrators.

“I think they received it well. I pretty consistently get emails from PEAK coordinators or different teachers who are looking to implement some of the advice that I gave,” she says.

Ator will attend the University of Denver next year where she plans to earn a Bachelors of Science in psychology, and another major in education, with minors in molecular biology and wellness. She knows she wants to use all that to help people.

“Specifically, younger people. I’m interested in education. Maybe become a teacher or psychiatrist. Something with mental health and something with children,” she says.

Ator’s advice to incoming freshmen, and especially to those high-achievers like herself, is to not be afraid to ask for help.

“You need to not be afraid to get help,” she says. “I did.”

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