World Mental Health Day takes place every year on October 10 to spotlight mental health around the world, raise awareness of mental health issues, and encourage efforts to support those experiencing mental health issues. This year Upper School marked this important day by introducing a Self-Care Fair.

A collaborative effort, orchestrated by Margaret Gunter, Director of Grade 9 Counseling and Academic Support, and Dr. Kelli Bynum, Director of Counseling Services, the fair was not only a moment to showcase a number of different resources, partnerships and tools but it also was the culmination of several days of activities that revolved around the theme of the year: “Mental Health as a Universal Human Right.”

Ms. Gunter shared how the idea of the fair came together, “Kelli and I brainstormed and we felt that bringing awareness to the small things that contribute to our overall mental health was a concrete way to honor World Mental Health Day. We also tried to make a connection to the fact that physical health and mental health go hand in hand.”

Four moments in the first two weeks of October were designed to create intentional reflection on the importance of mental health.

Thursday, October 5 – Introduction: To emphasize the importance of personal mental health and self-care students in Advisory closed their eyes and practiced deep breathing techniques to clear their minds and be in the moment. They brainstormed ways to take care of their mental health and created mental health bracelets, each color symbolizing a different aspect of self-care acting as important reminders.

Purple – Be Confident
Pink – Be Kind
Blue – Be Calm
Yellow – Connect with Others
Orange – Be Confident
Green – Be Healthy

Tuesday, October 10 – Physical Health: The focus shifted to physical health during students’ Getting Things Done (GTD) periods, with James McKeel and JP Hogan leading tours of the Mustang Athletic Center (MAC) and teachers taking students for a walk around the track. The intent was to dispel the notion that the MAC was exclusively for athletes and to promote its availability for all students.

Ms. Gunter explained in Upper School there is a perception by some that the MAC is only for athletes. “We wanted to challenge that and say, the MAC is available to everyone and so is the track. If what you need for your mental health is to go walk five laps on the track, and then come back and refocus, that is available to you.”

Whole Heart Psychotherapy came to speak to staff during the October 10 faculty meeting to educate teachers about mental health services, stress regulation strategies, and taking ownership of one’s self care.

“The intent was to give faculty some time to have a little bit of self care, with the importance of prioritizing your own self care because it allows you to be more fully present in your day, if you’re doing things to take care of you, “ Dr. Bynum explained.

Chapel – Spiritual Health and Connection: Josh Amerson delivered a powerful message during the Chapel session, emphasizing the importance of opening doors for others and creating a culture where students can be themselves, no matter who they are or what they face.

When asked what Chapel was like during Mr. Amerson’s talk, Dr. Bynum said, “You could have heard a pin drop. I honestly felt like they connected with him. I felt like his message was powerful, but not preachy. And I did feel like there were a lot of kids paying attention and listening. He made it very relatable, because there probably wasn’t a kid in the audience that at some point hasn’t felt like doors have been shut in their face. His whole talk was around doors, opening doors, and how can we choose to open a door for somebody to make it welcoming for them to come through? Because really that’s our responsibility, each of us here on the campus.”

Thursday, October 12 – Self-Care Fair: The fair itself featured seven pillars of self-care: Mental, Emotional, Physical, Environmental, Spiritual, Recreational, and Social. Divided into the 4 community sections on the second and third floors of the Upper School, the fair featured 8 stations:

  1. The Importance of Sleep: Coach McKeel emphasized the significance of proper sleep for mental health and overall well-being.
  2. Myths about Protein and Carbs: Resident Athletic Trainer and Sports Medicine Director Hiro Kariya provided students the opportunity to learn more about nutrition and how to make informed choices regarding their diet.
  3. Sensory Boxes by The Berman Center: These boxes provided tactile and sensory experiences for stress relief and grounding techniques. They aimed to help students cope with stress and manage their emotions.
  4. YoungLife – YoungLife is a Christian ministry that provides opportunities for connection and support. Connor Webb, a YL representative, came to meet and chat with students about the fellowship of being a part of YoungLife.
  5. Belonging: Following Josh Amerson’s Chapel message, this section encouraged students to discuss the importance of belonging and acceptance.
  6. Breakfast Ideas by Flik: Flik offered tips for fueling the body with healthy breakfast options, promoting the idea that what you eat can affect your well-being. They made 300 mini smoothies to illustrate how breakfast is important and a way to fuel your body.
  7. Local Produce and Fruit Sampling by Fresh Harvest: Fresh Harvest allowed students to try fresh produce and fruits like persimmons, encouraging a healthier approach to nutrition.
  8. Build Your Own Trail Mix by: Page Love, Nutrifit GA This station encouraged students to create personalized trail mixes, highlighting the importance of nutrition and how it impacts well-being.

Reagan Hickey, class of 2024, said, “The Self-Care Fair was a super unique and engaging experience that allowed me to learn how to take care of myself in ways we don’t usually think about. My personal favorite part was learning about proper ways to fuel myself from Hiro, then getting to make a trail mix that aligned with the recommendations Hiro had just discussed!”

Dr. Bynum underscored the importance of normalizing the struggle with mental health issues and cultivating a culture where individuals can be themselves and seek support without stigma. The fair, inspired by this ethos, aimed to destigmatize and demystify mental health challenges.

In sum, the Self-Care Fair 2023 was a meaningful event that fostered awareness and understanding of mental health, emphasizing its universality and the importance of self-care in our lives.