Wellness workshop initiates mental health conversation, proves ineffective

Maddie Cloutier and Jessie Norwood

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This year, South held its first ever all-school workshop, which focused on the general wellness of the student body. Opinions on the workshop were divided between the students who did not enjoy it and the staff involved in planning  who felt that it was a positive step forward, according to students and school officials.

Many South students felt the workshop was uninformative and unnecessary, sophomore Laura Jasiak stated. Many of the complaints from students stemmed from one issue: the lack of students and teachers they knew well. Without peers and teachers that students were comfortable with, they found it difficult to have real, deep conversations.

“[I felt] kind of awkward because I only knew one person so I didn’t really want to talk to anyone,” Jasiak said. “I felt like my class didn’t want to talk at all.”

The first workshop, held on Nov. 21, was centered around wellness. The creators hoped to teach coping strategies for stress and anxiety, Dr. Lara Cummings, assistant principal of student services, said. A group of volunteered teachers formed a committee where they came up with lesson plans for the workshop.

“[We hoped] that students [felt] like they’re not alone; other students may have felt some similar feelings,” Cummings said.

After the workshop was over, the people who create the event felt  it was a positive experience,  Jennifer Meek, South social worker, said. Despite the fire alarm going off during the workshop, they felt that both students and staff were able to begin to create meaningful connections.

“The feedback we’re getting is pretty positive,” Meek said. “I think students are glad that we’re having these conversations.”

One of the hopes for these workshops is to create spaces for students to develop close relationships with their peers and teachers, according to social worker David Hartman. Students will be in the same groups for the next workshop in the spring, which will have a focus on equity.

“[There are benefits of] being able to have a group of kids that you’ve potentially known for a couple of years and that you’ve developed [relationships with],” Hartman said. “This is the space where we talk about [difficult] things.

Two years ago, a survey was sent to South students about community in school, Hartman said. After looking at the results, administrators were unhappy with how many students felt like they didn’t have a trusted adult in the building. A recent survey sent by the planning committee will help decide how many workshops are needed in the future, Cummings said.

“One of the things we [did] after the workshop [was] send out a survey to all students, as well as all staff, to get feedback,” Cummings said. “We’re going to look at that feedback to first of all, plan for the spring, but then decide, is this the right amount of days? Should we add days or decrease days?”

Although they recognize the issues brought up by students and teachers, those involved in the planning process hope they will focus on the bigger picture, Hartman said.

“That is a place where  you can come together and talk about potentially difficult things,” Hartman said.