“For the last 12 years I worked in mental health, as a counselor— that was with adults, actually, not with students. It was very challenging, and I really loved it. In the beginning, I felt very much out of my comfort zone, because I had a lot of people with quite severe mental health issues, so it was kind of deep-end stuff. But I felt like in a year I learned an amazing amount. There were certainly moments of stress, when I just thought, “Can I really do this? Can I help?” But I got a lot of positive feedback, and I had a lot of people say to me, “You really helped me,” and “You really made some changes in my life,” and “I feel so much better,” so just hearing all of this has been really rewarding.
Previously I was in Manila, and before that, I was in Singapore, so we moved a lot, as a family, through my husband’s job. I’ve got two children, Orla, my daughter, is in Sacred Heart in grade six, and my son is in ASIJ, in grade nine. We’ve moved every three years since they were little, so this is our sixth country now. Luckily, my job is something I can take with me.
I would say that I definitely saw patterns in my clients in different countries. Since most of my clients are international, they are expatriates and are English speaking, so they have this similar pattern of moving and constant change. For a lot of people, [that] brings a lot of anxiety and stress, and [have a hard time] developing coping skills and mechanisms to be able to cope with that kind of lifestyle. Kids are different, so they will react in different ways. Some of them take it on board a lot easier than others, so we just have to be a bit mindful of that. But what I do see in the children, is a strong resilience, because they have to keep coping and adapting.
I love being part of the Sacred Heart community. I went to an all-girls school in Birmingham, England, right from the age of four to eighteen. It was about the same size, about 500 kids, and we had a green uniform with a white shirt, so when I walked in here, I just thought, “Oh my gosh, it’s like Edgbaston High School!” I was thrilled. My best friends today are my school friends; they have been able to see me in every county we’ve lived in, and they’re like my family. So that’s why I am really excited about Sacred Heart, and that my daughter goes here, and she has got those opportunities to build something. Here girls are celebrated, and it’s a really nice environment.
The transition to Sacred Heart has been really, quite smooth. Obviously, it is a totally different environment, so I’ve gone from a mental health clinic to school and students, but I do find it really rewarding working with young people, because they are the future, and I can’t tell you how satisfying it is when you have a student that you’ve really helped, and they say, “Mrs. K-Breden I just really feel I’ve really come a long way, and you’ve really helped me. I feel so much better about myself, and the future is so much brighter.” That, to me, means the world, really, because they’re so young, and they’ve got all their lives ahead of them. I think it’s lovely. So that’s very rewarding for me. I really love my job. Sometimes it is really hard work because you do get a lot of students who are not aware of themselves, and it’s really difficult to get them to talk because they are just so not self-aware, and that makes it tough. But then you get adults that are like that too, so that’s just life.
I find it really difficult wearing a mask, and trying to counsel someone. It’s really hard for connection, hearing somebody, and— you know, counseling is all about making connections. So I do find that really tough, and sometimes, I just say, “Let’s go online, so we can get a good hangout,” with some of my private clients. I think right now, wearing a mask, I’d prefer to be online, which I never thought I’d say because I never really did much counseling online at all. I’ve always been a great believer in face-to-face, but the world has changed, and who knows how long this is going to go on for. So you do have to adapt, and I do see the benefits of it now. Doing Skype counseling, without masks, I feel like, even though we are not in person the connection is greater because we have that certain sense of being able to read each other.
This year, I’ve got the opportunity to work with more of the high school, because before I was working with mostly middle school. So I’m going to start teaching some Personal Ed classes in years 9 and 10. I’m really excited about that. I love working with the high schoolers because you’re all so much more cognitively aware, and responsible. It’s the wonderful media between adults and adolescence.
Something I always think, and I always say to everybody is: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Obviously, you know, when you are academically struggling, you would try to talk to your teacher— that would be the natural thing to do. But that is exactly the same principle with mental health as well. Don’t struggle alone. The other bit of advice is: worries and anxiety are actually very normal things. We all have them, and degrees of them (anxiety or stress) are good for you because it drives you on, they spur you on. They can be good things because they can tell you that something is going on in your life that needs attention, right? When it starts to become too burdensome, too extreme, overwhelming, and then that starts paralyzing you and stopping you from doing the things that you really wanna do, being the person you wanna be, or making you avoid situations— that is when you need to start asking for help, and you shouldn’t be afraid to.” — Ms. Kottegoda-Breden
Editor’s Note: If you or anyone around you is struggling with mental health, please remember what we have three wonderful counselors at school, Ms. Dega, Ms. Fisher, and Ms. K-Breden that would all be more than happy to support you.
Here are other resources that you may find helpful:
International Mental Health Professionals Japan:
If you are interested in looking for a therapist, please check this link out: www.imhpj.com
Two of their most known features are ‘Lifeline’ and ‘Chat’:
TELL Lifeline provides “Free, anonymous, confidential telephone counseling, every day” They are available from Monday to Thursday at 9 am-11 pm, on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays from 10:30 am-2 am. If you would like to learn more, please refer to this link: https://telljp.com/lifeline/
To contact them, dial: 03-5774-0992
TELL also has a ‘chat’ feature, in which you can anonymously chat with one of the counselors. To learn more, click here: https://telljp.com/lifeline/
If you would like to learn more about them, or if you would like to find other resources, here is the link you can use: https://telljp.com