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Students voice proposals to increase mental health aid

Written by Grace Ding

This school year, Principal Dr. Denise Herrmann has been working with students who wish to bring positive change on campus. Specifically, she is helping the Student Wellness Committee implement three proposals, including anonymous referral boxes, the Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!) program and a mental awareness campaign. “In response to some of the mental health needs, some students have approached me about wanting to have more input on things we can do to reduce stress and improve overall wellness,” Herrmann said.

The Student Wellness Committee was formed in Nov. 2014 by four students—sophomore Chloe Sorenson, juniors Sarah Reich and Cole McFaul and senior Rose Weinmann—whose goals are to involve more students in decision-making processes and help students by making large-scale and small-scale changes around campus. “After Cam died this year, Ori Herschmann who was a class president in 2010 to 2011 came to talk to [the Student Executive Council] (SEC) about things we can do to help the community, and he was what gave me the extra push to do something,” Sorenson said. “I talked to a few other kids and we came up with three solid proposals, and we brought them to Dr. Herrmann, and she got the ball rolling for us.”

One of these three proposals is the referral boxes that are in the guidance office and the SAC that allow students to anonymously refer a friend to see a counselor. Many students appreciate this proposal for its emphasis on anonymity. “I think it’s a really great idea to keep things completely anonymous and accessible for students without having to worry about the stigma of getting your friend help,” senior diversity commissioner Danny Golovinsky said.

The committee’s second goal is to introduce the YES! program at Gunn. This program will teach techniques for stress management and reduction through four to five weeks in freshman Physical Education classes. According to Sorenson, the SEC has done a pilot of it, approved it unanimously and is aiming for the program to begin next year.

Finally, the committee is in the beginning stages of launching a mental health awareness campaign for the school and community. “This hasn’t exactly been visible yet but we are hoping to launch an awareness campaign that highlights causes, symptoms and resources for different mental illnesses, as well as raise awareness for overall student wellness,” Sorenson said.

Some students outside of the student wellness committee are also presenting proposals to school administrators. Golovinsky proposed mandatory ACS check-ins with every student either once or twice per year at a school board meeting open forum. Golovinsky is working closely with administrators to expand ACS facilities so that counselors will be capable to meet with all students. “It would help students because a lot of students are looking for an outlet and that outlet isn’t necessarily being given to them or they’re not always aware that they need someone to talk to,” he said. “So this would really benefit all students because they would get the opportunity to get the help they need during school from these ACS counselors.”

Through these proposals, students are increasingly involved in decisions affecting themselves, something Herrmann encourages. “My goal as a principal is to try and maximize the opportunities where students have choice and voice,” she said. “We all feel better about our learning when we feel in control and we all feel more part of a group when we’re involved with the decision-making.”

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