RePrint Opinions: Mental Wellbeing

By Minna Gao ’19

“Next year’s school theme is mental wellbeing? That’s interesting.”

This was my reaction when I first heard of the Student Council’s decision. I thought about all the things that could go wrong by selecting this theme, and about the underlying message of the decision: the topic of mental distress has become so grave an issue that it demands the school to devote one year’s worth of convocations and discussions to it. However, as I reflect upon my experience here as a student, I realized that this focus on mental wellbeing would shift our attention from the outer world to our inner selves.

Life as a high school student in a competitive prep school can be hard. Sometimes, it is not a sudden traumatic life experience that breaks a person, but the long-term accumulation of small disappointments and minor stressors that become the straws that break the camel’s back. Lately, I often find myself staring at an empty table on a Saturday night, too stressed to go hang out with my friends but too mentally taxed to start my work. As thoughts of my workload pester me 24/7, I seem to carry the weight of my responsibilities around like a snail would carry its shell; stress and being stressed became living norms of my everyday life.

As a school, we don’t give mental wellbeing the attention it deserves. We have talks about the environment and current events, but we rarely hold meetings or events that teach students how to move on from a bad performance in class or that give them a space to share their struggles. Just because many students are stressed, complaining about your own stress is often deemed tactless and self-centered; this implicit yet stifling social practice can lead to an unhealthy environment. Simply acknowledging common problem of stress and removing the stigma of talking about it will be the first step to ameliorating the issue.

I think sometimes we overlook how hard it is to be a student at Loomis Chaffee, or any similar type of school, and we forget to reward ourselves for dealing with all the hardship because we’re so used to it. Boarders often experience homesickness that, contrary to common belief, does not lessen over time, and though I can only talk confidently about the boarder’s experience, I have heard from some of my day student friends that balancing life outside and within Loomis is difficult. We are all high achievers and hard workers who have pulled through despite many challenges, and we ought to give ourselves a pat on the back for that.

All in all, I am glad that the mental wellbeing of the community is given greater campus-wide emphasis, and I look forward to seeing how the school theme unfolds next year and its impact on the Loomis community.