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Tools for a Healthier School Evironment

 

TOOLS FOR A HEALTHY STUDENTS

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please.

Please note: I was not able to enlarge the images. Once I do  the text becomes blurred and unreadable. I would suggest changing the zoom on your screen if you are not able read them. I’m so sorry about the inconvenience.

BACKGROUND

 

When developing my ideas for this project I first started thinking about what I could do within my own school to improve overall health and well-being, knowing the suicide and depression rates among teenagers are quite high. To get more perspective on issues, besides the ones I already knew about, I met with a counselor at my school to ask her opinion on what she thought were the biggest mental challenges with teenagers, specifically at our school. Together, we identified three major points of concern for teens: eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. Each point being something that can begin as something barely noticeable but can evolve into something incredibly detrimental to a student’s (or anyone’s) life. This got me thinking about ways we might be able to create an environment which fosters these conditions better. 

THE CHALLENGE

 

Going to a prestigious, private, college prep school, there seems to be an underlying resistance to admit to imperfection. No student wants to be seen as struggling in any situation because they assume that it will make someone else look better than them, if only on paper. With the pressure to succeed, students will go out of their way to strive for realistically unattainable perfection, maintaining the facade that everything in their lives is fine and running smoothly. The reality, though, is often quite far from that, students just don’t want their flaws to be out in the open.  Underneath the surface, anxiety and depression can start to take root from the pressure to be perfect. Similarly, the roots of eating disorders can begin in the same way, with the additional factors that many students do not know how to eat for their activity level and the fact that there are certain stigmas about how certain athletes should look (distance runners and wrestlers most prominent). Thus, it can be very easy for a student to find themselves in a vicious cycle of mental health issues which can negatively affect life endeavors.

 

THE SOLUTION

Workshops on Nutrition, Managing Stress, and Mindfulness to give students the tools they need to prevent developing eating disorders or letting anxiety and depression get the better of them. Increased sharing of personal stories of dealing with conditions such as these will also help to promote more openness and acceptance of imperfection among the school community.

This past year, a local nutritionist, named Jessika Brown, gave a talk on nutrition to the athletes of our school. Meetings were held separately for boys and girls on evenings after school between the fall and winter sports seasons. The turn out for the even t aimed towards boys was highly successful and a large number showed up. The meeting for girls was less well attended, and I suspect that might be because girls are more likely to think they have their eating habits under control when they really don’t and are consequently not fueling themselves properly. In these meetings Jessika covered tactics for healthy eating as an athlete and the basics of nutrition for teenagers and some sport specific advice. Since then, I have begun to see Jessika myself so that she can help me to maintain a lifestyle which is healthy for me and my activity level as a long distance runner. It is my hope that my school counselor, the administration, and myself can arrange for these talks to happen again, possibly during multiple sports seasons, because they were extremely informative an having good nutrition can lead to many positive effects concerning mental health and performance. I will also talk with my Cross Country coaches to see if, being a sport with many stigmas about body type, we can fund a meeting as a team with Jessika so that she can educate us on how to be healthy in our sport. It is my hope that these nutrition talks will prevent eating disorders and many cases of unhealthy eating which can lead to depression and social anxiety. Below is a talk Jessika Brown gave at a local TEDx event.

The Stress Management and Mindfulness workshops are still in the works of being created. However, we know that stress management will be a major topic covered for seniors as part of their “senior toolbox” to help them get through their final year of high school. Upperclassmen mentors will also share their experiences with relationship stress, social stress, etc. with underclassmen to give their perspectives and advice to underclassmen who may go through similar situations. Thus, a more open and accepting environment will begin to be fostered at my high school. As far as the mindfulness workshop is concerned, we an interested presenter but still need to work out further details. These events will most likely take place next year that way we can develop a curriculum and have everything planned well for the future.

One supplementary thing I will also work on to foster change in my school is to update and make additions to the current policies in our school handbook to counseling so that they further detail the rights of students in need of a counselor as well as outline what to do with cases concerning the more recent issues of gender. This will ultimately give students a clarified resource which they can use to ensure their overall well being.

 

 

Please share your comments, questions, and general feedback with me. I value all of it and would love to see your point of view concerning my catalyst project.

My next steps in this project are to start setting concrete dates for the future for these workshops to be held and to arrange more logistical aspects such as timing during the day, location, and presenter availability.

WORKS CITED

 

 

 

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COMMENTS: 10
  1. April 27, 2017 by Eva Fritsch

    Hey there! I’m Eva and I am in the 11th grade at a private school in South Carolina. I agree that we have to make the school environment more enjoyable and motivating, and less stressful and tiring. We have a speaker at our school about every two weeks who talks about depression, stress, anxiety, and more. I think she has really helped people be more mindful and aware, and has helped them get better. I loved your page! The pictures were great, by the way! 🙂

    • April 27, 2017 by Katarina Yepez

      Thanks for your comment! The idea of having a speaker every two weeks is interesting. How does that work? Are these talks in small groups or as a whole school?

  2. April 27, 2017 by Jade J

    I really love the idea of mindfulness to push back against mental illness, since it is such a natural and holistic approach. I am all for that stuff and I think it’s great that you’ve taken a stance that falls somewhere in the middle! One idea that caught my attention was your suggestion to make the student handbook at your school clearer on the rights of students. What kinds of rights are you thinking exactly? Very cool ideas and so so so insightful! Awesome job!

    • April 28, 2017 by Katarina Yepez

      Thank you for visiting my page! Currently, the rights on accessing counselors and counselor confidentiality are not only a bit difficult to find, but also not very explicit in what they say. I want for students to be able to find those policies more easily and and for them to be more explicitly clear about what a student’s rights in a situation that might need counseling will be. I want students to feel more safe and knowledgeable about their rights should they ever have to see a counselor for help.

  3. May 01, 2017 by Lucy W

    I love this approach! My school does morning meditations to help destress students. I think if taken on a bigger scale, as your project describes, it would really help the well being of students. Also with the counselor access and confidentiality, that is something that is so so important. Students feeling like they have a place to go to if needed where they know they won’t be judged is really key.

    • May 01, 2017 by Katarina Yepez

      Thank you for your input! I appreciate the positive feedback 🙂

  4. May 02, 2017 by Rahul H

    I also like this approach and the student handbook part of it really is a great idea!

  5. May 02, 2017 by Masayuki N

    I think that this is a great project! In many academic settings, stress exists, but there are definitely ways to reduce it. I think that having stress management workshops and discussing this issue with underclassmen will be of a great benefit to the school.

  6. May 03, 2017 by Alison Green

    Katarina, this is an important subject and you did a great job. You are right that a school like Academy can be a pressure cooker for students, and they could use more support and stress management techniques. One suggestion for a local person to come do Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the school is Michelle Duvall with the Mindful Center. Perhaps next year she could run some meditation classes for students. She also runs classes about healthy eating and exercise in combination with mindfulness. Keep up your excellent work!

  7. May 09, 2017 by Jill Brown

    Katarina,
    I like how you focused your energy and work on a few items that seem most important. I appreciate that you related your personal engagement in these discussions. I also agree that these are very important topics and I believe your solutions are very doable. We know how busy our lives are but learning more about how to take care of ourselves and our friends is important. I believe you have found a way to impact many with your ideas and work!
    Dr. Brown
    GOA Site Coordinator
    Albuquerque Academy

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