Our mental health isn’t improving: Activity schedule flaw

Repetition of activities does not guarantee effectiveness

Our mental health isn’t improving: Activity schedule flaw


“I am frustrated. I am stressed. I’m just not learning anything,” senior Piper Dobson wrote to the Talon. 

To all of our fellow seniors, it’s the busiest time of the year. Deadline after deadline, we are staying up until the first sun rays of dawn and rushing to submit those daunting college applications. Our caffeine addictions are growing by the hour while our mental health is declining just as rapidly, if not faster. 

With the best of intentions, the school administration has turned last year’s connect periods into activity schedules, aiming to provide unique instruction on topics such as diversity, equity and mental health. The efforts of the revised activity schedule is greatly appreciated as topics of mental health are prominent concerns, especially at a highly competitive school such as Oak Park. Best intentions aside, the activity learning periods are inherently flawed. 

The last few schedules have included surveys and their corresponding results/analyses, and we can’t help but laugh. Dramatic? Maybe. But what is the point of sharing that many upperclassmen are experiencing poor mental health, represented by a Clipart sad face emoticon, if there are no tangible solutions posed? We already know we’re struggling, thanks. The speeches we’re hearing from the countless speakers lack a fresh perspective. They just keep on repeating what we already know. 

“I feel like I’ve seen this presentation five times already,” senior Davis Lipetzky wrote to the Talon.

The administration’s activity schedules have brought attention to our dragging mental health and have encouraged discussions (kind of) amongst classmates, but have given no real solutions. The live speaker that we listened to seemed out of touch with teenagers and their technology consumption in this day and age, or more specifically seniors who are headed for independence. Well, in a world where technology and the digital age reigns supreme, what else can one expect? 

The last speaker encouraged parents to be overtly involved in their children’s online presences, through meeting their friends on FaceTime and monitoring social media posts. The impact of her words felt like a hit straight to the gut — as if no one in high school can be trusted fully by their parents. To state the obvious, seniors and freshmen shouldn’t be receiving the same talk about online safety; our worlds feel a mile apart. 

We upperclassmen are smart and have access to the internet, and so, we challenge the administration to teach us something we don’t already know. Students want solutions from these presentations, and the only way to make them helpful and meaningful is to take them one step further. A broad overview of information that can be found with one quick Google search is not enough. If the school is going to require students and teachers to engage in an activity schedule that takes up class time, they better make a splash. 

“Give me a solution!” senior Matin Nawabi told the Talon. 

Take the ‘circle of control’ activity, for example. We split into groups and discussed what responsibilities we have on our plates, how to juggle them and our inner power to manage it all. Great concept, like many that came before it, but it stopped short in its tracks. Or, the ‘health and wellness’ worksheet we were asked to fill out. It would have been beneficial to see the program’s priorities changed and the whole thing fleshed out more. 

Rather than spending so much time on self-reflection and group discussion, the time could have been better organized to focus on dealing with what we can’t control. Take anxiety-driven pressures, which aren’t easily controlled, but act as stressors which students could use some professional help with. General information isn’t enough to achieve mindfulness. Taking discussion to the next level through researched information, beyond the advice of our peers or outside speakers would have made a difference. It feels like a waste of class time right now.

We urge the administration to spend this time wisely; it has the potential to be valuable.  If you’re going to block out this time, we would hope it’s worth our while.