Director of Counseling
March 6, 2018
When I started working at NSCDS in 1996, a woman named Sharon Cooper was one of my mentors. Sharon and I worked as colleagues in College Counseling, and her insight and wisdom about absolutely everything knew no bounds. As a young, twenty-something aspiring therapist, I welcomed every story—every bit of life experience—that she was willing to share. Since we spent hours together, face-to-face by virtue of the placement of our desks, we knew each other well, and no subject went untouched.
One afternoon, as we discussed women’s lives and mental health, Sharon said something that I remember to this day, “A well woman is a connected woman.” She wasn’t referring to women’s professional connections but, rather, to the way in which bonds of friendship and community naturally and powerfully support women’s mental health.
This message was echoed, more recently, during a wellness training I attended in 2016 through the Center for Mind Body Medicine. This five-day workshop brought together therapists, medical doctors, naturopaths, and every variety of healer from across the country and around the world to learn about facilitating people’s emotional wellness. As this incredibly diverse group of people engaged in hours of educational lectures, as well as intense group experiences, one of the primary messages of the training was amplified: Community is both one of the oldest facilitators of wellness and one of the most effective forms of intervention.
As this idea pertains to the wellness of students, the implications are clear—community is a keystone of mental health, an essential protective factor that promotes resilience. In other words, what North Shore Country Day School is as a community—what any school is as a community—is as relevant to students’ wellness as is the presence of a counseling staff or wellness-oriented programming.
Given what we know—that social-emotional health challenges can compromise students’ interest in learning and their ability to learn; that distressed students are distracted students; that compromised mental health impacts attention, retention and one’s ability to collaborate—the relevance of community in the life of a child cannot be overstated.
What we also know is that, when young people are given the tools to “struggle well” through such challenges within the supportive context of a deep-rooted, richly enacted community, they learn to grow beyond their struggles and acquire tools that bear gifts for a lifetime.
So, as Director of Counseling at North Shore Country Day School, while I’m proud that our wellness programming focuses on everything from kindness and empathy to digital citizenship to stress management, depression and the transition to college, I am even prouder that who we are serves kids’ wellness as much as, if not more than, what we teach to enhance it.
Lots of schools have Buddy Benches, but, at our school, a lonely kid can sit on it and actually find a buddy.
Through our service projects, our traditions and our relationships with one another, together, we create mental health.