Beginning on April 12, seniors across campus adjusted their schedules for a variety of activities all week long surrounding mental health and wellness. Designed to spread awareness surrounding different topics, Wellness Week was created to encourage students to use the several mental-health resources provided by the school.
“Wellness Week is a week designed to focus our community’s attention on both physiological and psychological well-being,” said Upper School counselor Sam Booth. “With differences of age, gender, race, and stages of development, it is important to be as inclusive as possible regarding the content of topics.”
Due to the ongoing concerns over COVID-19, the format of the week had to change. This year, connections with outside speakers and communities were restricted, resulting in counselors having to find alternative, virtual ways to celebrate Wellness Week.
“Our seniors engaged in an entire ‘week of wellness,’ ” said Upper School counselor Marguerite Spiotta. “Each day’s advisement period emphasized a topic related to college preparedness such as fitness, sleep, mental health, sexual health, adulting, and financial literacy.”
On the first day of the week, all advisements showed grade-specific documentaries that covered a range of topics such as bullying, anxiety, alcohol poisoning and hazing, and sexual assault. The ninth grade watched Upstanders, a film that explores bullying and cyberbullying, the sophomores watched Angst, a documentary designed to raise awareness around anxiety, the juniors watched Haze, a film that tells the story of a college student who died in a hazing-related alcohol overdose, and the seniors watched The Hunting Ground, a film about sexual assault on college campuses in the United States. Students were also given the opportunity to excuse themselves at any point during the movies if they needed support when watching the sensitive subject matter.
These documentaries were aimed toward helping students understand and learn about these topics, while simultaneously helping them understand that they are not alone in their struggles.
“After watching the movie Angst and having a fun Chick-fil-A community activity, I felt validated, and like I was not the only one who struggles from anxiety,” said sophomore Lauren James.
Put on by the Upper School counselors, this year, Wellness Week was mainly geared toward the senior class to prepare them for their upcoming life away from Westminster.
“Feedback from seniors and past seniors help guide the content of information shared during Wellness Week with topics that they wish to know before leaving school and heading to their next adventures,” said Booth.
Wellness Week aimed to educate students about important topics and issues occurring in the world and within their communities. Although the school specifically designated this week for wellness, Westminster provides many resources year-round to help students with their mental health.
“Wellness is an important topic at a rigorous school like Westminster,” said junior Lucas Rosenberg. “The workload and tough curriculum can be quite stressful at times. However, I think Westminster takes the necessary precautions to ensure that every student can get the help they need.”
Westminster makes many different resources available to students, such as the counselors who are located in the Well on the first floor of Pressly. Meetings with counselors are strictly confidential, and students can make appointments by scanning one of the flyers around campus or emailing a counselor.
“Sometimes seeking outside help can be difficult, and this is a great avenue for school counselors to help develop that conversation and be proactive toward mental health,” said Booth.
“I think Westminster does a good job of checking in on our mental health and having people that we know we can go and talk to about our problems,” said freshman Ellie McCollum.
Westminster has instituted many policies during the pandemic to attempt to help the mental health of its students. One of the main additions has been “mental health days,” days off which give students a chance to catch up on any work and relax. These days have been helpful for students, allowing them a break from their hectic lives and busy schedules filled with homework, sports practices, and other extracurricular activities.
“The extra day off every month was a great addition to the schedule to help the students catch their breath and have a day to get back on track,” said Rosenberg.
Although some students believe that their mental health is cared for at Westminster, many believe that the efforts aren’t enough, and the school should be making a larger effort to help and raise awareness around mental health.
“I think despite all the efforts to improve mental health at Westminster, they just aren’t working, and it’s gotten worse,” said junior Annie Jardina. “There is barely any morale in the student body anymore.”
Others believe that, aside from counselors, there is a lack of different sources for people who aren’t quite ready to talk to a counselor.
“I think something that Westminster could do to help is to create online resources for specific topics that allow students to get help on a topic just from online sources because a lot of students aren’t ready to make the jump to talk to a real person,” said junior Patrick Nagy.
Although Wellness Week has been important in demonstrating to students the importance of mental health, wellness is not limited to just this week, and Westminster will continue to grow and adapt to the needs of students.
“Westminster is continually finding ways to incorporate wellness into the daily lives of our students,” said Booth. “Wellness will continue to develop and will look different each year. Wellness will be more inclusive and accessible with the right lines of communication and understanding.”