Under pressure
Getting together to discuss problems to deal with stress

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 28/97) - Peer pressure is a constant source of stress for young people, says Robin Sorenson.

"It is a form of stress because people worry about whether or not people think they're cool," said the Grade 11 St. Pat's student.

And he's not the only one concerned with that stress.

Stephanie Maille, a Grade 12 student at the school, agrees that pressure to smoke, drink alcohol and take drugs can lead students down a path toward destruction.

While there are students who get "taken in" by others, Maille said they are usually the new students or the quiet, weak ones who don't stick up for themselves.

"You have to know yourself and who you are," she said. "I've learned to say no. I know how to stick up for myself, but everyone goes through it."

St. Pat's assistant principal John Murphy says students who transfer into the school from other communities are the easiest targets.

"Anyone who transfers into the school adopts both the good and bad habits of the group with which they want to associate," he said. "They get led by the nose."

Murphy empathizes with these students and remembers what it was like when he was growing up, he said.

"When you're 13 or 14 years old, the most important thing in your life is your friends," he said. "You don't want to be by yourself."

However, there are more services within schools to help students deal with the pressures of growing up now than he had as a teenager, he added.

The teacher advisory program -- TAP groups -- are set up to get students from different grade levels talking with their teachers in an informal setting.

Grade 10 St. Pat's student Jessica Patterson says TAP sessions really help her deal with the trials of growing up.

"Teachers have a lot of first-hand knowledge," she said.

The sessions give students the opportunity to voice concerns and get talking about the issues surrounding problems they face.

"If you read about it and hear about it enough, it starts to sink in," said Patterson.

Bringing students together in a melting pot of different grades has also improved rapport among students of different ages, said Murphy.

But pressure can also come from others, including parents who push their children to excel.

Maille, who's preparing to go to university, said that her family has learned that discussing problems is important.

"It used to be -- you better, you have to, you should -- but now we discuss things," she said. "It helps a lot."

"Having someone to talk to really helps," agreed Sorenson.