News flash: The Wellness Center exists!

November 18, 2021 — by Anamika Anand
A student takes a break from class in the Wellness Center to destress.

Imagine a place away from all the bright lights and noisy chatter of school. Herbal aromas fill the air, spreading a calm feeling throughout the room. Two small fountains flow on either side of the room, adding gentle splashing sounds to the peace and serenity.

Enter the Wellness Center. Located behind the student center in the 800 building, it’s somewhat hidden away from the rest of the school, despite being intentionally placed in the middle of the school by previous principal Paul Robinson so that students could easily access it. 

“Not many students know that we’re here and what we’re here for,” Wellness Center coordinator Marina Barnes said. “The Wellness Center is here for you to come and take a break to destress, as a way to take care of yourself.” 

In addition to providing a calm environment to destress, the Wellness Center also offers beanbags and tables laden with fidget toys such as stress balls and kinetic sand. Among other relaxation activities, there is a zen artboard, where students can paint with water and watch their art disappear. 

“[The artboard] is a reminder that things in our lives are impermanent,” Barnes said. “I find it really calming and helps you to destress.”

Students can “simply sit and relax for a little while,” and there is a team of four therapists accessible for students to talk to, Barnes said. 

Students can walk into the center anytime, but there is also a referral form in which a student can remain anonymous when asking for help. Another resource the Wellness Center provides is an online therapy resource called TalkSpace. Through TalkSpace, students can call or message therapists when they need to. 

Despite these resources, Barnes feels that not many students are aware that the Wellness Center exists. Thus, the Wellness Center created a student group called the Youth Outreach Committee (YOC) that has been tasked with spreading awareness. 

“The school dynamic has been a little strange, especially after the pandemic,” said senior Alaina Srivasatav, a volunteer ambassador for YOC. “I feel like underclassmen don’t necessarily know about a lot that’s going on on campus, so we’re trying to make [the Wellness Center] more accessible to underclassmen.”

The YOC ambassadors meet twice a month. The  main goal of each meeting is to figure out new ways to spread information about wellness services. The ambassador group consists of Noora Fayad, Tanya Ghai, Sadaf Sobhani, Alaina Srivastav, Catherine Kan, Grace Hsu, Aditya Vekatram, Emma Foley, Elizabeth Stoiber and Sahil Shaik. Many of the students are presidents of other wellness clubs at school as well, like Yoga For All or Sources of Strength. 

So far, the group has discussed bringing Wellness Center information directly to classrooms as well as making kits that students can order based on their needs. The wellness kits can include things as simple as fidget toys or soap. 

Srivastav, who is working to get her Gold Award as a Girl Scout, has also spearheaded an initiative. She is in the process of creating a digital bulletin board on campus that will display mental health resources for students, encouraging them to seek the help they need. 

Having experienced mental health struggles herself, Srivastav understands the importance that it should have in everyone’s lives, especially students. 

“After I dealt with so many of my problems throughout high school, I realized that [mental health] is super important, especially when it comes to academics,” Srivastav said. “If my mental health is suffering, then my grades are also going to suffer.”

Even if students know that help is available for them, mental health services are one of the most stigmatized organizations at school. According to the American Psychiatric Association, stigma and discrimination can worsen symptoms and reduce likelihood of getting treatment. 

Barnes said she believes that the Wellness Center is the healing center for the mind and heart, just like the doctor is the healing place for physical injuries. 

“Mental health is something that we can’t see,” Barnes said. “If you break a leg, you can, and there’s no stigma around going to the doctor for that. So I encourage kids to approach mental health and emotional assistance that way.”

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