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Dear Cassy: Wellness Centers help students destress during crisis, finals

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by Liz Schoeben

Anxiety and stress effects over 25 percent of teens today and is one of the most prevalent reasons students seek counseling with CASSY. Both Palos Verdes High and Peninsula High school are finding ways to address this issue. One ways is by operating a Student Wellness Center on campus. Student Wellness Centers are becoming more and more prevalent on high school campuses throughout the country.

The Student Wellness Centers offer a safe place for students to drop-in to de-stress, learn coping skills, or just to take a healthy break. Each center provides resources on social and emotional issues, from tips on stress about finals to dealing with a bad breakup. The Centers are open for all students during lunch and other break times. Many students drop in to catch up on homework, grab a cup of hot tea and relax on the comfy chairs. Scattered around the tables are stress balls, pipe cleaners,  a small zen garden, journals, and coloring books. And of course hot chocolate and aromatherapy. CASSY therapists sit among the students, talking and offering support when needed.

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The week before finals, as expected, stress levels increase for many students. Both schools hand out “finals survival” coping skills bags filled with bubbles, gum, mints, and other goodies. At PV High the week before finals is called Wellness Week, sponsored by BTC (Be the Change). BTC advisor Karen Kostrencich says the club is in charge of the culture at the school and focuses on inclusion, acceptance and wellness. During Wellness Week activities include chalk art, yoga, movies with popcorn and therapy dogs. Students enrolled in the zero period Introduction to Mindfulness class also participate in Wellness Week. The class is taught by Tamara Sheridan and Jill Moeller and introduces mindfulness and the science surrounding it. Senior Maddy Bohannon has taken it upon herself to offer monthly “De Stressing Art Classes” at lunchtime in The Wellness Center. Maddy offers art along with music and chocolate to help students cope with the many stressors in their hectic life. She began the program last spring and uses her own funds. along with donations to support the program Each month 15 to 40 students can be found in the Wellness Center during Maddy’s “de stress art class.” Maddie says art is just one way to cope with life stressors. She personally uses music and exercise. Maddy also attributes mindfulness to her reduced stress levels. She says it has helped her enjoy the little things, take a pause and be more present in the moment. The class has taught her the benefits of mindful sits and mindful eating. She plans to study psychology next year at college.

Other students also offer support in the Wellness Center. At lunch a group of Peer Mentors play games and socialize with students who may be struggling socially and feel more comfortable in the smaller environment the Wellness Center offers. In addition to the Wellness Center, both high schools have two full time CASSY therapists to support students by offering individual, group and drop in counseling.

In crisis? Text 741741 for free crisis support 24/7.

For more information go to SouthBayFamiliesConnected.org

Liz Schoeben is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. In 2017, she founded CASSY SoCal (cassysocal.org), which partners with the Palos Verdes Unified School District to provide students with comprehensive mental health services.



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