Students participate in mental health awareness week


Photo by Sammie Cohen

Students and staff participate in the Walk for Wellness on the track during lunch. While more students were expected, a few passionate participants came out to finish the week off strong.

As time goes on and our society becomes more accepting, the stigma around mental health continues to decrease. WJ’s dedication to providing a personalized Mental Health Awareness Week has shown staff’s desire to eliminate this school-wide stigma.

On Monday, Oct. 10, the Mental Health Awareness Week began with a meet and greet during lunch outside of the cafeteria. This key interaction was a way for students to familiarize themselves with the large mental health support system, all in one place.

“We have received feedback from students and parents for many years now that they don’t know about the mental health supports that are available to them at our school…some students even get to junior and senior year and say that they don’t know who their counselor is…And so, we wanted to fix that…and encourage them to come and see us. That was the goal,” Resource Counselor Imani Ladson said.

While Monday provided a practical and helpful activity, Tuesday’s event held a large crowd, attracting students from all over the school. Outside in the athletic circle, the wonderful organization, Guiding Eyes for the Blind came out with four of their therapy dogs for the students to play with and mobs of dog-loving students surrounded them.

“Seeing the guide dogs come to WJ during lunch this past Tuesday was really calming and adorable…Guiding Eyes for the Blind has such a special place in my heart. After training two guide dogs, I’ve become so attached to [the] organization and can’t wait to train another dog,” senior Megan Fannon said.

Therapy dogs from Guiding Eyes for the Blind are visiting students during lunch. There was a huge turnout, with many students stopping by to pet them. (Photo courtesy of Gillian Fannon)

Fannon serves as the President of Sources of Strength (SOS) and understands the importance of prioritizing mental health. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Sources of Strength initiated their “take what you need” sticky note campaign to distribute much needed positive messages to those in need of a brighter day.

“Our goal is for students to take our sticking notes with positive messages and keep them as a reminder to love themselves. Sources of Strength will continue to do self-love and positive affirmation campaigns throughout this year. Mental health and suicide prevention doesn’t always have to be sad and negative. A great way to enact change is with a simple compliment,” Fannon said.

In addition to the staff-planned events throughout the week, mental health-based clubs have taken advantage of the opportunity to get creative and promote their own campaigns.

Wednesday, the PSAT Day, was a major source of stress for students with testing anxiety. To help alleviate stress after the lengthy three hour test, wellness activities were offered; from puzzles to Forrest Gump movie watching to weight room workouts there was something for everyone. While several students went home after lunch, many stayed to participate in the activities.

On Thursday, yoga teachers Janice Cornell and Susan Pickett generously offered a yoga session for staff and students during lunch but unfortunately, it wasn’t taken advantage of. Yoga provides incredible benefits to the human body and mind as an excellent way to relieve stress and decompress.

“I wanted more students to be exposed to yoga and the benefits of yoga and how it can make you feel through movement and breathwork, how it works your body and mind connection and how it helps you relax a little bit,” Cornell said.

While Friday’s Wellness Walk didn’t have the anticipated turnout, some student and staff members joined together on the track to take a few laps in support of the cause.