The Hotchkiss Record

Day of Activities for Health and Wellness

At boarding school, students face rigorous schedules and intense pressure to succeed. Some students struggle with their mental health in this environment, making it crucial that communities provide students with the tools they need to thrive.
On Wednesday, March 6, the school hosted a Wellness Day focused on improving mental health and sexual assault prevention. Students could choose between a number of optional activities, either immediately after classes for Preps and Lower-mids or after a speech in Walker Auditorium for Upper-mids and Seniors. The activities aimed at providing students with a break from their regular schedule. Options included meditation, board games, cooking, trivia, and yoga led by various faculty members.
Katie Koestner, an activist against sexual assault, addressed the student body in the afternoon. Despite a lack of support from her college’s administration, peers, and her family, in 1991, Koestner came out publicly as a victim of date rape and wrote a letter to her local newspaper that received nationwide attention.
Since then, she has appeared on the cover of TIME magazine and was featured in The Washington Post. Koestner has lectured at over 2,500 schools, spreading awareness about date rape and sexual misconduct. She is currently the president of Campus Outreach Services and director of the Take Back The Night Foundation, organizations that educate people about sexual misconduct and provide services for sexual assault survivors.
In her presentation, Koestner discussed domestic abuse and emotional violence, how social media and technology affect relationships, how to create healthy relationships, and the negative effects of gender roles. With upperclass students, Koestner shared her personal experience with sexual misconduct. In an interview with the BBC, Koestner said, “Every time I make myself tell my story, there are 10, 20, 30 more stories that are told.”
After her lecture, Koestner and her colleague, Gordon Braxton, an activist focused on both preventing male violence and supporting male victims of sexual assault, split the student body up into two groups to discuss consent and abuse in relationships. Students then moved to faculty-led groups to continue the conversations.
Members of the administration believe it is important to alleviate stigma around mental illnesses, especially considering that some studies estimate 1 in 5 teens suffer from some form of mental illness. Mrs. Heather Perrenoud, dean of residential life, said, “I think Mental Health and Wellness Day is beneficial for students, since they get a chance to discuss topics that they feel strongly about.”
The Council on Diversity and Inclusion and Bring Change to Mind club are planning initiatives and activities for May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month.

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