What About Mental Health?



Panelists speak during all-school presentation.

At the school, poor mental health has become the norm. Most students — even faculty — describe life at the school as a constant race. Work never stops, and neither does time. Students are forced to choose between sacrificing a social life for time to work, or vice versa. Part of this dynamic can be attributed to the school’s reputation as an elite prep school, and the issue is further compounded by school policies such as Saturday classes.

The administration has ostensibly attempted to address mental health on campus. Students have taken numerous surveys regarding the mental climate at the school, listened to guest speakers, and attended fishbowls and discussions about improving the situation. Still, not much has changed.

Last November, the school administered a survey with Authentic Connections, a third-party organization hired to help collect data on the state of mental health on campus. The results of this survey were presented by the Authentic Connections team during an all-school meeting, during which various issues — such as rates of bullying and anxiety — were discussed. However, the programming that followed glossed over many topics that students expected it would cover, including substance use, sleep, and depression. Many students left the meeting doubting the school’s willingness or ability to change policies and enact change in response to real data.

In April, Dr. Anne Hallward spoke at an all-school wellness program, another effort by the school to address mental health issues. Prior to her presentation in Walker Auditorium, Dr. Hallward met with members of Peer Listeners, Bring Change to Mind, faculty members, and counseling staff to learn more about the school culture, during students and teachers raised major concerns about student stress and anxiety. However, to the dismay of many, the presentation was largely focused on abstract themes of stigma and shame. While informative, it lacked relevance to the school community and failed to offer concrete recommendations for change and self-improvement.

These two events epitomize the school’s surface-level attempts to create change while no actual plan to do so exists. As such, we believe a chasm of miscommunication exists between students and the administration. Even with initiatives in place such as the all-faculty Wellness Committee, avenues for expressing student opinion to faculty and administration are scarce. Most students rarely get the chance to engage in serious conversations with administrators such as Mr. Steve McKibben, Ms. Amanda McClure, or Mr. Craig Bradley. Thus, students feel left out of the conversation about change at school, further discouraging them to speak up.

We propose allowing students on the Wellness Committee and highlighting mental health at StuFac. We want the administration to genuinely listen These initiatives will give students the confidence to share their thoughts while increasing the pressure on the administration to act.

We understand that students may sometimes come off as too idealistic or too demanding of the administration, which creates both frustration and animosity.

Nevertheless, we believe that the common ground of student wellness and excellence still stands, and thus that administration, students, and faculty must work together to better our school for all of us.