Dear Andover families,
We are writing to update you on some important student wellness initiatives at Andover. Our approach continues to focus on supporting both the physical and mental health of our entire student body.
Data shows that teens across the country are experiencing more mental health symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. School connectedness, a student’s belief that they have adults and peers in their school community who support, value, and care about their well-being, is an important protective factor for all adolescents. Every adult on campus, in partnership with parents and guardians, plays an integral role in fostering these important relationships.
Support for Students
The Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center supports student health and well-being through a variety of programs focused on physical and mental health. While we have had some turnover in the counseling department in the past year or so, our interim director of psychological services (Vivian Báez), dean of health and wellness (Amy Patel), and associate head of school for equity, inclusion, and wellness (Linda Carter Griffith) are in the process of hiring staff and developing additional wellness support. This includes a nationwide search for a new director of psychological services and maintaining a counseling team of four full-time counselors.
Our Big Blue Be Well initiative, established in spring 2020 early in the pandemic, connects students directly to student-centered educational programming. Big Blue Be Well is focused around six core principles of health:
- Relationships with others/community
- Stress management
- Nutrition/mindful and healthful eating
- Healthy relationship with substances
The wellness team is also expanding the care delivery model to provide wellness support to all students who need it. Demand for services has increased (on and off campus and across the country), and the Sykes Wellness team is responding in the following ways:
- Providing collaborative and stratified levels of care appropriate for school-based counseling services and using evidence-based interventions, which typically involves up to 8-10 visits with a counselor per year.
Having a counselor available for drop-in sessions and consultation for urgent situations.
- Strengthening relationships with counselors in the wider community who see students in person and via telehealth. This is best for students who need longer-term counseling, including over school breaks.
- Collaborating with a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who comes to campus weekly to see students.
Expanding access to counseling services for all students using a telehealth platform. (Many colleges and universities are also adding this service.)
- Further developing group workshops, which will also tie into our new student community standards process (e.g., workshops focusing on topics such as substance avoidance, anxiety, sleep).
Increasing professional development, including a day-long Nov. 29 faculty meeting focused on teaching mental health first aid skills. This will complement a 90-minute faculty training in September.
We continue a data-driven approach to supporting students in a variety of ways. Students who seek care at the Sykes Wellness Center complete a brief behavioral health screening that assesses for conditions such as depression, anxiety, and/or substance use disorder. The screenings are validated tools and remain confidential between the student and a member of the Sykes team. An individual conversation, additional assessment, and care will be given to every student who has a screen indicating that additional care is needed.
The Academy will be administering the Independent School Health Check survey to all students in February 2023 during advising period. Administered through the National Association of Independent Schools, this anonymous survey will help us better understand student health issues and customize support. We are striving for 100 percent participation to ensure that we gather the most accurate data possible. Families who would like to opt out, please email firstname.lastname@example.org by January 15, 2023.
Given increased interest, we are also offering more student leadership and program opportunities. Modeled after the faculty and staff Wellness Collaborative, we started the Student Wellness Collaborative last year, comprising leaders of clubs including Students in Medicine, Sykes Medical Initiative, Active Minds, Peer Listeners, YES+, and HOSA. Last week, the Student Wellness Collaborative hosted a week of substance education in recognition of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.
We know that our students’ mental health is integral to their physical and intellectual well-being, and we will continue to partner with families and our campus community in these efforts.
Raynard Kington, MD, PhD, P’24
Head of School
Amy Patel, MD, P’26
Chief Medical Officer
Interim Director of Psychological Services
180 Main St. | Andover, MA 01810 US
You received this message because you are a valued member of the Andover community. We are obligated to communicate with you, and require you to be on our email list while your student(s) attends Phillips Academy. For more information contact the Dean of Studies Office.
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