Every day, schools and districts do so much to support students — teachers develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter, coaches emphasize the value of sportsmanship, and networks of dedicated mentors foster new interests. But while the joys of learning are being discovered, there’s another important way to demonstrate how your school community supports the development of the whole student, and that’s through building a culture of wellness.
Showing what and how your school cares for and supports your students’ emotional well-being is just as important as their academic, physical, and personal growth. But as today’s youth continue through the education systems of America, there are growing concerns that schools and educators could be doing more for social-emotional learning (SEL).
Despite high test scores, involvement in extracurricular activities, and continued academic success, recent research suggests that students in “high-achieving” public and private schools see higher rates of behavioral and mental health problems compared with national norms.
To help support students and demonstrate your school or district’s dedication to student well-being and health education, let’s review how to showcase your efforts and provide resources through a school wellness hub. But first…
What’s causing the student mental health crisis?
The causes are not necessarily new — poverty, trauma, discrimination, and increased pressure to succeed, but researchers are now finding that elevated levels of chronic stress among students can affect long-term health and well-being. In a recent national survey of 43,000 students from high-performing schools, three-quarters of high schoolers and half of the middle schoolers reported “often or always feeling stressed” by their schoolwork.
COVID certainly didn’t help with emotional health, either — over a third of students at public and private high schools reported that their mental health was “not good most or all of the time” during the pandemic. The U.S. surgeon general even described the learning loss and emotional stress for students during the pandemic as contributing to a “youth mental health crisis.”
And despite a growing need for school counselors and other mental health and wellness professionals, statistics show there’s a critical staff shortage of these types of employees. The good news is that the job outlook for school and career counselors and advisors is expected to grow 11 percent within the next decade.
Schools that are better staffed and equipped to prevent, rather than respond to, mental health emergencies can help mitigate the threat of mental health emergencies before it’s too late.
What should a wellness hub for schools include?
Providing support for students
Schools play an important role when it comes to mental health resources and support for students. For some communities with less access to health services, a school can be the only means of mental health support and coordinating care with health professionals. In terms of a wellness hub, posting important contact information, ways for students to arrange appointments, additional reading on common topics, or questions can be valuable resources, including crisis hotlines, stress management apps, and bullying and harassment reports.
Health and well-being are a central part of the student experience, as highlighted by Valor Christian High School. As a cornerstone of the school’s mission of strong character development formation, spiritual, physical, social, and mental well-being is just as important as academic and personal growth.
The hub is a one-stop shop for information about the school’s co-curricular activities, student clubs, balanced nutrition, athletics programs, and social-emotional services — all opportunities and sources of strength. A beautiful design and captivating imagery bring all the elements together really well.
Providing support for parents and guardians
Knowing students have a professional support network at school can be a major relief to families. For some parents and guardians, offering additional material like links, guides, conversation-starters, and videos for ways parents can support and talk with their children about complex topics can be a valued resource.
The Pupil Services page of Downingtown Area School District shares a lot of resources for the district’s parents and community members, including information about its counseling and wellness initiatives. Sections for its parent mentor programs, its parent speaker series, and the prevention specialists are well-organized for mobile browsing, which is especially helpful for parents on the go.
Recent workshops and guests speakers
Highlighting recent workshops or guest speakers is a way to showcase the important efforts and external voices that influence student well-being and school culture. As your community gathers to take part in group activities that promote mindfulness, drug awareness, or stress reduction, recap those events with news articles, reflective blog posts, or guest speakers.
Q&A’s help will move those efforts into the spotlight, and activities such as group decision-making and conflict resolution – often led by teachers with support from school mental health personnel – can help create a more mindful community.
Berkshire School’s Wellness and Growth Program features information about student-led support groups, photos from the school’s wellness speaker series, recent workshops, guest speakers, as well as screenings that explore a range of wellness topics. Using Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, a well-designed, user-friendly layout features accordions and tabbed elements that provide details about grade-specific programming and learning opportunities.
Promoting your school's wellness programs
When students feel more comfortable at school, research has shown that they are less likely to engage in aggressive behavior at school. While most states don’t require schools to teach social-emotional skills (SEL) to students, many schools, administrators, teachers, and mental health professionals can empower students to identify feelings, calm thoughts, and form meaningful relationships with classmates and faculty. If your school has a program or regular activities that foster the ideas of SEL and resiliency, including those on your wellness hub is a great addition.
The Haverford School calls attention to its wellness-focused classes on its curriculum page using Finalsite Posts. The school details its course offerings with a toolbar to filter and search for classes across school levels and disciplines — a great way to organize a lot of information in a way that’s user-friendly and easy to read.
Health staff profiles
Knowing who is caring for your students can help remove barriers between community members, and with the potential influence school counselors can have on students, putting a name to a friendly face can provide a level of comfort. On your school’s wellness hub, include profiles of your school nurses and counselors with professional training, as well as educational backgrounds and previous experiences, to let parents know their children are in good hands.
Within its community section, the counseling page for Greensboro Day School details how it supports a holistic view of student health and well-being. The health professionals behind the success of its program are featured on the page, along with the roles of each counselor and how their approach is tailored to each of the school’s three divisions.
Resources for major transitions
Consider adding a section specifically for boarding students, with resources for adapting to a new environment, a new community, making new friends, and building study skills so they can make their first year away from home a positive experience.
For students living away from home for the first time, the transition can be a major life event, as well as family relocations, parent divorce, or the death of a family member, friend, or even a family pet. Resources for processing major life changes will be an important part of any school’s counseling services for students.
Fitness and nutrition information
Unfortunately, eating disorders have been relatively common in schools, but the isolation, anxiety, and added screen time required for online learning during the pandemic have exacerbated the factors that can sometimes lead to unhealthy eating behaviors.
Providing information about nutrition, physical fitness, and making healthier choices can come at a crucial period for teens, and your resources can help support students and families alike during this time.
Folded into its Athletics section, the health and wellness information of St. Joseph High School goes into detail about the school’s beliefs of educating the whole student — spiritually, academically, and physically. In the spotlight is the school’s 4,500-square-foot fitness center to support not just the physical development of its athletes but also the personal health and fitness of all students. With programs in nutrition, exercise science, strength and conditioning, and mindful restorations, among others, the center is a hub of continual mental and physical improvement.
Every school deserves a happier and healthier community to complement an amazing academic experience. A wellness hub can not only support your current student and families, but showcasing the resources, staff, and programs your school provides demonstrates to prospective students and families that you care about your students’ entire well-being.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.