The "Love Your Mind" events hosted by Westridge's student Peer-to-Peer counseling program last week opened a conversation in the Upper School about the stigmatized topic of mental health. Throughout the week, the campus was papered with reminders for the whole student body to love their minds. Mirror affirmations, notes posted on mirrors in bathrooms around campus, reminded students that their thoughts are beautiful and that their minds are strong. A garland of brain-shaped cutouts highlighted statements about what students love about their brains, and students passed out bookmarks, stickers, and brown bags for hyperventilation.
The week culminated with an Upper School Town Hall meeting, which began with Peer-to-Peer members providing educational explanations of various mental disorders such as OCD, anxiety, depression, and ADHD. They introduced the disorders, how they can manifest, and how they are distinct from normal temporary feelings of stress and difficulty focusing.
"Understanding how best to support our students is a community-wide effort – from partnerships between school and home to guidance from experts such as Lisa Damour who recently spoke at Westridge," said Head of School Elizabeth J. McGregor. "What is often most powerful, is peer support and guidance – something that was very much in evidence when our Peer-to-Peer Upper School students introduced this "Love Your Mind" – an opportunity to talk about learning differences, and mental health."
Members of Peer-to-Peer bravely stood up and gave personal testimonials about their struggles with mental disorders and inspired others to take the mic to share their own struggles. Students opened up about their experiences with everything from autism to anxiety disorders and shared how they wished their friends and family had reacted.
The support in the room was palpable; every student who spoke returned to seats where friends waited with open arms. One student ended her testimonial by thanking the Westridge community for being an open, safe place where everyone can share their struggles, be supported, and heal.