BOSTON (CBS) — These first few weeks in June means final exams in high schools, which can also mean students under a lot of stress.
The Shine Initiative, a non-profit in Central Mass. to help students “shine a light” on good mental health at school and students at one school in Harvard were motivated to partake because of some troubling events that had happened near their town.
As they fill “stress-less” bags for classmates at The Bromfield School in the town of Harvard, these students hope to lighten the intensity of finals week. They call themselves the SWAT team for Student Wellness Advisory Team.
“So after there were some mental health issues and suicides in surrounding communities, we as Bromfield students felt that kind of environment was involved in Bromfield,” said junior Katherine Worden.
The initiative began at the Bromfield School two years ago.
“We were really concerned about our own students and so we wanted to take action to make sure we had preventative measures and that we could help students cope so we didn’t have any tragedies the way other schools had,” said Worden.
The Shine Initiative began in 2004 and has expanded to 16 schools, including the Bromfield School, in Central Massachusetts so far. Each student wellness advisory team is given between $2000-3000 a year for activities like these “stress-less” bags.
“We’ll be giving them out both during the senior finals and ultimately for the rest of the high school finals,” said Worden. “It just provides the students with something to do and something to take their minds off the intensity of finals…the school is looking out for them and people care about their mental health more than just their grades.”
In February, the school stopped for “Refresh Day.” SWAT brought in puppies, local yoga instructors, and other activities so the 660 students in grades 6 through 12 could focus on wellness together.
“I really think it’s brightened the school,” said junior Izzi Barton. “It really made me feel like I was just relaxing and enjoying being young and like just doing small things that can like make your day better.”
Principal Scott Hoffman said, “They’re the ones that planned everything, I know they did research. It’s a credit to the kids and their advisors who really helped them run with it.”
Executive Director of Shine Initiative Paul Richard believes the student-led projects are crucial. “When we realized that half of lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 that became the launch point,” he said. “School administrators are recognizing that with all the emphasis on MCAS and test scores over the past couple of decades that they have neglected the behavioral health and mental health needs of their students and emotional needs.”
Students who stepped up is what got the ball rolling.
“That really served as the launch point for working with young people and trying to encourage a greater awareness, understanding, and comfort with mental illness but also promoting mental health,” said Richard.
The Shine Initiative has $300,00 a year budget initially funded by Fidelity Bank but now with other donors are helping the non-profit grow. They run parent-teacher training and community forums and want to expand to 40 schools all over the state.