Teen Pregnancy: Resources at Judson and Mental Health Awareness


Photo By: Samara Penny

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming,” are wise words from our favorite fish, Dory. 

Though it is a childish movie line from Finding Nemo, it’s meant to be a message of perseverance. 

Perseverance is key in times of struggle. One of the main struggles amongst our generation is the teen pregnancy spike, especially in Texas. 

According to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, Texas is ranked ninth in the country, when it comes to teen pregnancy, at the rate of 22.4 births per 1,000 girls. In addition, teenage girls commit suicide at a  5.2 rate per 100,000 in Texas, many of them being mothers, or expecting mothers.

Mentally and emotionally, being a teenager is already difficult. The addition of parenthood makes it 10 times harder, especially when there’s a lack of support. 

 While pregnancy is preventable, if the occasion may arise, Judson District has the resources to help any expecting mothers or fathers navigate through this time.

“I would like teen parents to know that regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in, they are able to continue with their education and achieve their goals,” Amber Palmer, JISD’s School Age Parenting Social Worker said. “My goal in helping pregnant teens is to provide them with social, emotional, and academic support to ensure they graduate, are taught life skills, and have positive parenting tools to empower them to reach their individual potential,” Palmer said. 

With the help of Ms. Palmer, students are exposed to many resources, such as Student Support Services, Health Services, transportation, Compensatory Educational Homebound Instruction, Pregnancy and Parenting Education, as well as child care assistance, for daycare.  In addition Judson’s at-risk counselor, Misty Ornelas, is here on campus for parents struggling with their mental health. 

“As a professional, when an at-risk, pregnant teen comes to me, I talk to them to get to know where their head is and evaluate what makes them an at-risk student. I want to know what makes them feel like it’s an end game situation,” said Ornelas.

 “I listen to what circumstances they’re in, and I let them know that there are many options, and they have a choice in this.”

Ms. Ornelas experienced teen pregnancy as well at the age of 18. Though she was married, pregnancy was a struggling process with many barriers. Ms. Palmer is a resource here for teen parents, to give a helping hand and support students going through these barriers. 

“When I first was going through my pregnancy, I didn’t know about Ms. Palmer, and I didn’t know what to do,” Trisha Smith*, a teen mother on campus, said. “Pregnancy was very stressful; from doing school while sick, to going through all these emotions, but I never gave up.”

“The school made it easier for me, because I had more options. The support alleviated my stress and made me feel like I have family around me no matter what.”

Because stress on the mother can lead to harm to the baby, Smith made sure to stay in tune with her mental health. 

“I had to make sure to stay positive, especially because lots of stress can cause you to miscarriage, and I didn’t want that at all,” said Smith. “I had to prioritize my mental health and surround myself with people who have positive energy and genuinely care about my well-being.”

Smith went further in depth about the fact that pregnancy and parenthood is a change, not only in life but for the body. It’s important to know the health precautions [mentally and physically] to do what’s best for you, as well as the baby. If a toxic household is something that you’re up against, don’t stay silent because you’re now thinking for two. 

“Teen mothers who find themselves in toxic households should contact me so that I can offer assistance and support for them to have a healthy pregnancy,” Palmer said. “Depending on the student’s circumstances there are different options to help them during pregnancy and post-delivery.  Toxic relationships can have negative effects on pregnancy and their unborn child, so it is important to have support during pregnancy,” Palmer said. 

As a guardian handling a pregnant teen, remember that this is a hard time for the both of you. You are entitled to your thoughts and feelings, but keep in mind the mother’s as well. “Beating a dead horse” helps neither the parent, nor the baby. 

“If you can’t help but feel like you can’t handle this situation, or that you don’t know how to move forward from this, ask for help. People like Ms. Palmer have been through things like this and are wiser in these situations,” said Smith. “You are not alone.”

If you or someone you know needs assistance, you can contact your counselor or reach out to Ms. Palmer and she will help you figure out where to start. She can be found in room H106 when she is on campus.

*Names in this article were altered.