What I Wish I Knew as a Freshman

Giving Advice to Freshmen to Reduce Anxiety Levels Throughout their High School Experience  

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. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.


As soon as we were assigned the catalyst project I knew that I wanted to do something revolving around the severe anxiety of students living in the Silicon Valley. To learn more about the problem I went to a school a couple of miles away in Palo Alto. The school is called Gunn High School and in 2009 there were 5 students who committed suicide in the span of 9 months. There were also an additional 42 Gunn students who were hospitalized or treated for “significant suicide ideation.” With further research I found that the main reason students were so stressed at Gunn was because of the struggle of managing extracurricular activities. They had never learned how to do so and as a result many students felt like they were drowning in tasks they had to do. From 2003 to 2015 there were 229 students who committed suicide in Santa Clara County. In Palo Alto alone the youth suicide rate was 14.1 per 100,000 people.  Even though I do not attend Gunn High School or live in Palo Alto, there is still a significant problem with stress within the schools around me and my own.


The issue I now faced was how to lower anxiety levels with students who attend my school. The suicide rates of Silicon Valley have been too high for too long and it was time to make a change in my community To tackle this problem I sent out two surveys to the students of my school to see how anxiety was affecting them.

In the first survey 34% of students said that anxiety was a very serious problem at our school. With this information I began to think about the students at Gunn and how they were never taught how to manage their stress. This gave me the idea that if students were able to learn how to manage their stress coming into freshman year, the stress levels of students would drastically reduce in the subsequent years of high school. With this idea in mind I sent out another survey to see what the biggest stressors were coming into high school.

The results helped me narrow down the things that people most needed help with going into high school. I then remembered my interview with the Bay Area director of Crisis Text Line, a program that gives help to people struggling with a crisis, Libby Craig. I remembered how she told me that when you are in crisis just talking to someone and hearing their prospective and helpful insight you are able to go from a “hot” moment to a “cool” one. With all my research about anxiety levels in students I set out to find a solution about how to fix this detrimental problem.


To fix the problem I chose to lower anxiety levels of students from the first day they walk on campus. I began to think about what questions freshmen would have and with the information from the survey I created 7 questions. These questions were asked to the seniors who have been through four years of stress at SHP. The video below will be played for the freshmen at their orientation in the fall. By showing the freshmen that high school will not be that bad and giving them advice on how to manage their stress I hope to lower the anxiety of the class and hopefully teach them that there is always a way to deal with stress.

I hope this tradition carries on beyond my graduation so freshmen can feel at ease and know that the whole SHP community wants to guide them in their journey through high school.


I have talked with the school counselor and I have agreed to make this video both this year and next year for the freshmen to view on orientation day. My senior year I am going to try to get someone to take over this project so it will be carried on even when my time at SHP is done.


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