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World Mental Heath Day: Wellness Curriculum at SAS
Elizabeth McDonnell

This October we celebrated World Mental Health Day, an international day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against the current social stigma. At St. Andrew’s, we understand that academic achievement and long-term success outcomes improve when students receive quality, direct instruction in the field of social and emotional learning.

Students began the school year by first reframing the topic of mental health with our K-12 Wellness Director Mara Garcia leading the charge.“Often people associate the words ‘mental health’ with negative ideas. Some people only think of worst-case scenarios, suicide, or diagnoses of mental health disorders. When the term is associated with these extreme ends of the spectrum, there is an avoidance of the acknowledgement that everyone experiences natural ups and downs and that there are several different types of factors that impact one’s mental health,” Garcia says. 

Social and Emotional Learning is an integral thread in our curriculum and daily programs. This semester, students are working on developing their sense of what mental health is, and how to best take care of it. Students in grade 11, for instance, just finished a unit in their Wellness class and developed social media posts that highlight particular points on the topic that were then shared out on our school’s social media account for #WorldMentalHeathDay

In these Upper School Wellness classes, students are taught the World Health Organization’s definition of Mental Health: “Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.

With this definition we are able to expand our understanding of this complex topic and begin to develop language to describe the fluctuations in one’s mental health, strategies for managing external and internal factors that impact mental health, and daily practices for self-care,” says Garcia.

Under Ms. Garcia’s direction, our faculty strive to integrate SEL benchmarks into their courses and understand the developmental needs of students. St. Andrew’s Schools is in partnership with Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, R.U.L.E.R. program. We believe that implementation of this evidence-based approach supports our students in their development of a positive sense of self and the skills necessary for managing life’s inevitable challenges. 

Additionally, students in grades 7-10 participate in One Circle Foundation, Girls Circle and our high school students take a Wellness class.