Tools for a Healthier School Evironment



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.



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. 



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.



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.





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