Mental Health at RCS
For the 2017-2018 school year, the health curriculum at Riverdale Country School underwent major changes, and the school’s counseling services received new members. The new health curriculum was several years in the process, and the most drastic change was the movement of the class from tenth grade to ninth grade.
The director of service learning and health teacher, Rachel Klein, about recent changes to the health curriculum said, “We have been looking to make this change for several years now and we finally had an opportunity to move Health 10 down to Health 9 … We feel very strongly as health educators that the earlier students are educated about all sorts of health topics and decision making, whether it relates to their bodies, nutrition, exercise, substances, sexual activity, mental health, [or] stress coping skills[, the better].” Klein spoke about the presence of mental health education in the new health curriculum: “Yes. There is plenty in both the old and the new health curriculum that deals with mental health.” She concluded with how Riverdale can destigmatize mental health: “It starts with being able to talk openly and freely about mental health. [...] The more supportive our community is of our students and our faculty around different mental health issues the better we are able to serve each other,” she said.
Riverdale students may also use counselors as a resource outside the health curriculum. Miguel Torres is Riverdale’s new counselor and explains that “there are several ways that students can contact [him]. They can stop by [his] office which is in Hackett between 214 and 216. If [his] door is open they can pop in and say hello ... if they want to schedule an appointment with [him] they can email [him] at firstname.lastname@example.org.” Contacting a counselor or anyone about mental health issues maybe hard with the current stigma attached to mental health, but Torres reassures students by explaining that “there is a lot of shame attached to talking to counselors or talking to anyone about problems particularly dealing with mental illness or mental health issues ... My thing is you have to push yourself to get beyond the shame. That's one of the ways to [overcome it] and the second thing is making sure that you know that you are not alone.”
One of Riverdale's own students, Elsa Chung class of 2019, was interviewed on how Riverdale addresses mental health. Elsa shared a student's perspective on how Riverdale addresses mental health and agreed that “Riverdale does address mental health but not to the extent of [how it addresses] physical health. I think that that’s something we should certainly work on.” Elsa agreed that Riverdale held mental health conversations but then said how the conversations were “sometimes... not detailed enough or nuanced enough. I think that mental health is complex because it’s so dependent on who the person is, what kind of mental health it is. Talking about it is very difficult and it's hard to get it right but when it is done right it's really important for the community.” When asked about the amount of resources at Riverdale, Elsa said, “There are resources. I think students are told about the resources they have, [but] I don't know how much they block it out or not. [the] fact that we do have resources here is a great step.” Elsa also spoke about how stigmatized mental health was. She dreamed that it wouldn't be “taboo anymore. [and that it was important that] it's recognized and its discussed.”
If you are dealing with mental health issues you can contact Nurse Lide at email@example.com, the MS/US psychologist Mr. Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org and the MS/US counselor Mr. Torres at email@example.com so they can help you because everybody needs help sometimes, and know that you are never alone.