It’s test day. As the class watches the hands of the clock inch slowly towards the starting time, a collective shudder runs through the classroom. Breathing quickens and heart rates speed up as the students recount the sleepless nights spent preparing for the exam, evident in the dark circles rimming their eyes. In the back, a student buries her head in her hands, and in the second floor boy’s bathroom, a boy sits crouched against the wall, willing his tears to stop. A torrent of stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression looms over the students’ heads. This is the reality of school.
As a part of a school environment prided on high achievements, students at LCHS are especially prone to feeling pressured to maintain the school’s reputation. So in order to alleviate school culture of suffocating stress and anxiety, LCHS has opened its own Wellness Center. The center allows a safe place for students to step in, take a break, and advocate for their own needs.
The stigma towards mental health, as well as the competitive nature of academics and the pressure to be “perfect” causes many students to find difficulty in opening up to others. So, the Wellness Center aims to provide an opportunity for students to start speaking up.
“I’ve had students come in since the beginning of the school year. I’ve started to get closer to the students, but it takes time to build working relationships. Some students, when they start talking to someone and getting support, will open up,” said Mrs. Smith, the licensed therapist at the Wellness Center.
Furthermore, she shared, “I think the number one issue is communication with parents — I hope the Wellness Center can be a bridge for the community so that through learning how to open up, students can connect with their parents to build more understanding with one another.”
In order to ensure open access to a therapist at all times, the Wellness Center has partnered with Sage, a mental health services organization. Students have open access to individual or group counseling with Mrs. Smith, the therapist from Sage. However, if face-to-face confrontation seems uncomfortable, there is also a drop-in support and self-care break area, complete with couches and snacks, that is available. Such programs are in place in order to provide students with a support system that they can rely on anytime, with guaranteed confidentiality.
In addition to the support, the Wellness Center also features a fish tank, a care wall, rest pods, self-help books, and extra meeting rooms to use at students’ leisure, all of which encourage students to help themselves to whatever they may need. The room’s theme, which revolves around nature and minimalism, is designed to stimulate relaxation and peace, which can hopefully create a space apart from the hecticness of the outside.
The need for outreach from the school community has been long overdue, but the Wellness Center is a start to providing the consolement and care that students need. At a time when the decline in mental health has reached its peak, a system where students can stay motivated and feel supported is crucial to their health and their success.