ROCKVILLE, Md. (WDVM) — Over 2,000 students spend their days learning and socializing at Richard Montgomery High School. Aside from their academic performance, there’s a new focus on the overall health of students — including mental health.

Dr. Kim Burgess, the psychologist behind the program, said, “the rates of anxiety, depression, violence, suicide are increasing and it’s alarming.”

Dr. Burgess, of the Pediatric Psychology Center in Rockville, created a program that allows upperclassmen to connect with freshmen and support them through their transition into high school

Joshua Coster is a junior at RMHS, he said “I definitely wish I had this program when I was a freshman, I would have shed a lot fewer tears because the transition to high school is very hard.”

Students today face a different set of challenges than their parents did when they went through high school.

“High school is really hard, and I think it’s a lot harder than it used to be, and we have a lot of really highly motivated students across our academic programs, so it can be a bit of a pressure cooker,” said Nancy Shay, who runs the International Baccalaureate program at RMHS.

When it comes to mental healthcare and education, Dr. Burgess says accessibility is key.

Sara Logsdon is a mentor in the program, she said, “You kind of can’t advertise it like ‘this will help you with your transition,’ because no one’s really going to go out of their way to help themselves with their transition. They might not even admit that it’s a hard one. You have to appeal to the freshmen like ‘this is a place to hang out, this is a place that’s cool,’ like where you can have fun.”

“The first meeting was all the freshmen and a bunch of juniors and seniors, and it was really a beautiful thing to see them sharing their emotions with one another,” said Shay.