There are a multitude of different mental health seminars that are being added to advisement this year to help guide students through high school. Administrators, counselors and other faculty members unanimously made the decision to add these lessons so that students will have another outlet to be more aware about their own mental health.
The mental health seminars that are being taught are centered around topics that students at Decatur requested as well as what counselors observed to be the most pressing problems at the school.
Decatur’s newly instated Student Success Coordinator, Dianne Thompson, hopes that these lessons will enrich the advisement curriculum with information more pertinent to Decatur students.
“We asked about advisement and one of the things was that students thought there could be more to it. Then we asked students what they wanted to talk about and [mental health] was one of the things that came up clearly,” she said.
The goal of these lessons is to destigmatize talking about mental health and give students an outlet to address any of the challenges they’ve faced in their high school life. Thompson hopes in doing this during advisement, students will feel connected to another teacher in the building who can help them if needed.
“Because every person who walks the planet, at some point, has a mental health challenge,” she said.
Thompson believes the decision to have these mental health seminars run during advisement was a “natural fit” as most students at Decatur have an advisement it can reach a majority of the student body without disrupting core classes.
“We’re trying to build a safe place at Decatur where we talk about mental health that works in the current environment we have,” she said.
The lesson topics were created based on the needs of Decatur students and will revolve around these 10 overarching problems: raising awareness about the student center, harassment and community, stress anxiety, depression and mental health, stress free holidays, suicide prevention, relational health, self injury, drug and alcohol abuse and best self care practices.
In addition to these topics, Thompson is also trying to include programs that revolve around expressive arts such as drum circles and lyrical expression through hip-hop to give students a chance to explore different outlets.
“We’re expanding what we’re offering because everyone had different things that they’re passionate about and to give students an outlet because we all need one,” Thompson said.
The executive decision made to add mental health lessons seems to only be negatively affecting one aspect of the previous advisement plan; the DEC’s air time. The DEC is a student run broadcast news program that, until recently, has been airing during advisement to inform students of news happening in and around Decatur.
Administrator Wesley Hatfield was one of the people who made this decision and spoke about how this change was necessary so that current advisement curriculum would be more beneficial to students than in previous years.
“We needed to redefine our advisement program,” Hatfield said.
He then went on to explain that, this year, advisement will include monthly mental health seminars in addition to the existing projects that are currently run through that time period.
“For example, advisement for 10th graders is going to be pretty packed with personal project stuff you have to do,” he said.
Although these mental health seminars have trumped the DEC in advisement there is still a possibility for it to be aired in different places. Hatfield has given some potential places for it to be included throughout the day.
“There is still room in 9th and 11th grade advisement for it and there’s also space to think about potentially letting folks view it during learning connections,” he said.