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Finding Ways to Foster Better Mental Health on Vashon

Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber - 3/5/2021

I am Selene, an eighth-grade student at McMurray Middle School and one of the Unofficial Mayors of Vashon Island.

A couple of facts about me: I love reading, writing, and going boating with my family. I am a member of the Sources of Strength, and the Peace, Equity, and Social Justice group at MCM.

Sources of Strength is a strength-based, comprehensive wellness program that focuses on suicide prevention but impacts other issues such as substance abuse and violence. Mental health has been our current focus, as during this pandemic we feel that is becoming a more present issue.

Mental health is your social, emotional, and psychological well-being. During our current times and especially because of the pandemic and state of the world we live in, people have to be watchful of their mental health.

Mr. Blomgren did an amazing job teaching his classes about well-being this past year, so I asked him to help provide me with some information on mental health.

"I view and teach Mental Health as a combination of emotional, psychological, and social well-being," he said. "They all interact with each other to promote well-being. As we know now, the social well-being part is especially challenging, with our pandemic, shutdowns, online schooling, and dark, rainy days."

He also mentioned how physical fitness, sports, art, well-being and mental health are important and often overlooked in school curriculums.

I think it is really important to acknowledge that mental health is a balance of many things, and this balance needs to be taken care of. Through these past couple of months, I have learned that having positive mental health takes work.

You could spend as much time on mental health as you want to, but a lot of people do not have that time. Putting aside five minutes of your day for mental health has surprisingly positive results. Some of the exercises that contribute towards positive mental health can also help with anxiety or stress. It depends on the person as to what helps them.

Some activities that help me are listening to music, drawing, and instant vacations. Instant vacations are when you take a mental break for a little bit, this could mean trying not to think about stress for five minutes, or doing an activity that you enjoy. Reading is another great strategy, but for me, this does not work as well because even though I love reading, the books I read tend to be very intense.

Having a good community is also beneficial, and Sources of Strength is a fun group to be a part of. I also really enjoy all the work we do in SOS because I enjoy helping people. When you help others, it can promote psychological changes in the brain linked with happiness.

Our group does campaigns at school, with our most recent one being a "What Helps Us" contest. Students and teachers were asked to submit things that help them into a few key categories. This was turned into a contest, to promote activities and hobbies people can do.

There are also things that don't contribute towards positive mental health, and homework is a big one. Homework creates a lot of extra stress because someone is putting hours of work upon students after they had to sit and learn about the same things for six hours. Homework also deprives us of sleep, for example, imagine if every single teacher just gives you a homework assignment that in their mind takes half an hour.

You are then also expected to work on long-term assignments, and help out your parents, or do other chores in your home. With our current online school schedule, you end up with about a minimum of two hours of not-fun homework plus a bunch of chores.

For me, online school can sometimes feel like people took the concept of school, took all of the fun parts out of it, and are forcing us to do all the hard work. I know this is not the intention, and during this pandemic, we have to be patient and supportive, but that can be really hard.

Adults expect us to do so much, get good grades in school, constantly work on building up our college transcript, help around our homes, have a social life, be patient, do productive activities, and be a teenager or a kid. On top of that, we're currently living through a global pandemic, and there's a bunch of other issues in the world with global warming and the oppression of minorities.

Some actions adults can do to help us would be listening to kids, being patient, putting in the effort to connect with kids and understand where they are coming from. Overall, paying attention to mental health is important, and supporting yourself, your family, and friends, can go a long way.

Selene Dalinis is one of Vashon's Unofficial Mayors, representing the group Vashon Sisterhood. Her co-mayors are Raena Joyce, Maarten Ribalet-Coesel and Lucca Hanson.