On Thursday, members of the GHS Outreach Club participated in a planning session for an upcoming Nov. 10 event at Arch Street Teen Center.
The event will feature Giovanni Rivera, along with GHS students and Stephanie Marquesano from The Harris Project.
This free community event, open to all public and private school teens (middle school and high school) and parents, is the follow-up to the hugely successful inaugural “Stress, Success & Teenage Setbacks” event that featured Scooter Braun, a GHS alumni himself, that took place last April.
The GHS Outreach Club is working in collaboration with the school community and local organizations including the Junior United Way, Arch Street Teen Center and Liberation Programs to plan this very important event.
“We were happy with the outcome of our last community event and are happy to announce Stress Success and Teenage Setbacks part two will focus on teen mental health,” said Rosanna Neri, president of the Outreach Club in an email to GFP.
On Thursday, GFP interviewed three members of the Outreach Club, who said that at GHS, student stress starts with the incessant comparisons between students of their academic standing.
“Students ask each other all the time, ‘What’s your GPA?’ and if you’re right around a 4.0, you feel bad,” said Outreach Club member Jenna Pastore during a break from the Outreach Club meeting on Thursday.
At GHS, is possible for students who get A+ in all advanced classes to blast past a 5.0 GPA.
“My friend group has GPA’s of 4.0 or higher,” said Matt Gesell.
“Too much school work was one of the reasons I quit crew. I thought I’d have enough free time to go for a run every day,” said Jamie Yee, a GHS sophomore. “But I was wrong. Having so much work to do impacts your physical health.”
“I don’t even have time for dinner,” Matt said. “Most nights I get four to five hours of sleep, and if I don’t get an hour nap after school, I’m not productive – I feel like I’m going to collapse.”
Elaborating on the student driven pressure, Matt, Jenna and Jamie explained that during sophomore year, students are limited to taking two AP courses, but their parents can override that cap and it’s possible to take 5 AP courses.
“Kids whose parents override – those kids are just dead in school,” Jenna said. “Sleep deprivation can correlate with depression because you’re getting too much, or too little sleep.”
“Today, at one point I just started laughing so hard I couldn’t stop,” Matt said, after joking about how tired he was on Thursday. “After just cracking up laughing, I felt like crawling under the table to sleep. You lose impulse control.”
Jenna nodded with understanding. “When you’re tired, you can do embarrassing things, and when you’re stressed it can lead to embarrassing social interactions,” she said. “Last week I didn’t sleep well, but I’m here after school til 4:00 pm and then go home and then come back for another activity, and don’t get home til 8:30pm to start homework. So weekends wind up being a time to catch up with homework.”
“Most kids, on weekends, they either party all weekend, or just spend the whole time catching up on homework,” Matt said.
Jenna said she occasionally schedules herself a “mental health day,” but even that is a challenge in order to avoid missing important classes and fall further behind.
“I personally have taken mental health days. But I’m on the lookout for weeks for the right day to pick. When I do, I catch up on sleep and then do all my schoolwork.”
“Everyone does it,” Jenna said of the mental health days.
Though Jamie, Jenna and Matt used “mental health” in air quotes, they were all keenly aware of how mental health corresponds to substance abuse and self-medication, and how sleep deprivation correlates with mental health.
Rosanna said the Outreach Club’s goal on this Nov. 10 project is to create an environment where people feel comfortable talking about and owning their feelings.
“We want to strip away the stigma that mental health is only for the weak, because not only is that false, but all of us one way or another are dealing with stress and some form of emotional struggle – some more than others, but nonetheless no one should ever feel ashamed of their emotions,” Jenna said.
While the Nov. 10 event will be focused on the mental health of teens, it is directed towards parents as well.
“We are all entitled to our feelings, but we are also entitled to receive help and that’s primarily what we are after – encouraging everyone to seek help and support from their family and friends,” Rosanna said.
“This year we plan to re-address everything from last year, but to focus on mental illness as it correlates to stress, anxiety, substance abuse and depression,” Jenna said. “The goal is to not be embarrassed by mental health, so people can open up and talk about it.”
“I know kids who are very private about their personal lives,” Matt said. “But it’s still a very competitive environment and people feel that they are at a disadvantage if they feel they have any type of mental illness because of how competitive Greenwich is as a whole.”
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