By Loore Puusepp
Edited by Alexia Cosmatchi
Last school year there was a Wellbeing week organized by the pupils’ committee to help raise awareness for students’ wellbeing. This organized event involved professionals coming to our school and giving talks to all the different years about how they could improve their wellbeing. When it came to the S5s last year, this seminar sparked outrage.
Tuesday, 17th of May 2022, Denise Clarke, a psychologist and psychotherapist, gave the S5 year a talk about mental health and wellbeing. We were excused from our classes to go to the Salle De Fete for one period, to listen and hopefully learn from her speech . However, this project from the pupils’ committee did not receive the positive feedback it was probably hoping for. Students reacted sarcastically and found Clarke unhelpful and naïve, which is interesting with her being a professional and them not. I recall her encouraging students to sleep enough, exercise and to eat healthily and a girl replying with “No, I want to be skinny,” under her breath. This made me wonder why students were upset with a woman telling them how to make their lives better.
Clarke encouraged us to do what makes us happy, to take some stress away from school and overall be healthy to have the beast mental wellbeing. Students scoffed as she mentioned ikigai – a Japanese concept for helping people find purpose and meaning. Students argued that school was making them unhappy, and they could not try to do things which make them happy and promote a healthy lifestyle, because then they would not have enough time to study for school. For example, when students feel stressed about schoolwork, Clarke recommended taking a break and instead going out for a walk in nature. This was met with disagreement, claiming that students did not have time for this, because of tests and homework. Therefore, school being the reason that they are not mentally healthy and well.
So, why was Denise Clarke so wrong with her advice? Well firstly, she was not wrong with her advice. Everything she said was true and helpful, but only true and helpful to a small group of students: the ones who were mature enough to listen to the advice given and respect the one giving it. Most of the students tried to use their phone and ignored what she was saying, because they did not have enough emotional maturity to face the facts: they are responsible for their own wellbeing. Yes, it is a lot easier to blame the school for making them stressed and sad and it is a lot more difficult to face the fact that the way you plan and live your life is your responsibility and ultimately you are to blame if you are unhappy with how it is, but to students this was not true. They could not believe that this woman was telling them to stop using their phones so much.
Listening to this talk required a lot of maturity and respect, which very little of the students had. They know what they should and should not eat and how long is too much to spend mindlessly scrolling on social media, but they were possibly just too young to see that what Clarke told them was true. It is possible, however, that in S5 one should be able to see these things objectively and take responsibility for their lives. So, were the previous S5s just too immature and arrogant to listen to? That is also possible or maybe they just wanted something else from the school. Maybe they were waiting for a talk about how terrible the school system is and how teachers are awful and how their mum has no right to ask them to clean their rooms or that their dads just do not understand them at all.
At the end of the day, the talk that was given was what students needed to hear, not what makes them feel better about themselves. It rather makes them feel better about changing their habits. It is impossible to know what every student present thought, however, the students felt unheard because of their problems, but refused to listen to how their problems could actually be helped.