The shift in health and wellness focus in recent decades has given more complex meaning to one of the School’s mottos, mens sana in corpore sano : a healthy mind in a healthy body. What has complicated this discussion has been the increase in emotional health concerns –concerns such as the prevalence of depression, body image issues, or paralyzing lack of confidence. I often speak with people who grew up in a different generation, when these issues were simply not part of the landscape in the vast country of growing up as an adolescent. They are puzzled, frankly. Where did this come from? How real is it? My answer is first of all that yes, it is real: no young person would choose to be unhappy rather than happy, lonely rather than befriended. Such students seek help, which we provide. Secondly – where does it come from? This question is not so susceptible of a quick answer – there are many gales blowing now in adolescence that didn’t blow decades ago. Are we more self-absorbed? Is our culture less certain of its enduring values? Is global diversity fracturing local culture or making it better and richer? Are students left to their own devices too much – or the opposite: are adults preventing kids from growing up by micro-managing the paths of these young people?
The list of questions could fill this page. It doesn’t have to paralyze us, however. In fact, we know a lot about what creates a full, healthy life for young people. In fact, it’s all that SMUS thinks about, and all it has ever thought about, for the 110 years of its existence.
The School believes that a fulfilling life, rich with opportunities, is the foundation for the balance and resiliency students need, balance and resiliency learned through reasonable commitments across a spectrum of academic, artistic, athletic, extra-curricular, and service activities. There is all kinds of research that draws a connection between these opportunities and future success. If you want a quick example, google the relationship between girls playing sports and academic success. You can also google the parallel information for the arts, service or positive social activities. The answers are compelling, and lead back to the SMUS program.
The purpose of this blog entry is to highlight a step we have taken over the past couple of years to examine how the School supports student health and wellness. We do a great deal, as I have said above. For the past couple of years a small group of staff and parents have been quietly and determinedly drawing together all our programs in sport and physical education, service and leadership, extra-curricular activity, the arts and academics so that we can more explicitly outline our support, fill gaps, and consider new possibilities. Our goal with student health and wellness is to balance students’ lives, develop healthy attitudes, and encourage self-discipline in making healthy choices.
Mens sana in corpore sano – we are still serious about it. Next week I’ll say a few more words about our next steps.