Resilience for Wellesley

By Rama K. Ramaswamy

The Resilience Project is an innovative initiative designed to promote the mental health and well-being of adolescents through school-community based support for students, parents, educators, counselors and communities. Wellesley Education Foundation (WEF) and Wellesley High School PTSO, in partnership with Newton-Wellesley Hospital, have been working to put this collaboration into place. It is includes school personnel, customized educational programming and improved access to treatment resources, which are essential and available via Newton-Wellesley Hospital to help parents of teens who live in the hospital’s service area.

Members of The Resilience Project, led by Dr. Elizabeth Booma, will also be providing consulting to schools and planning parent educational programs; the goal would be to focus on pre-emptive work with parents and teens before they and their families are faced with a mental health crisis.

Aristotle once wrote: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Doctors such as Booma and Susan Swick, (M.D., M.P.H. Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Newton-Wellesley Hospital and a Newton Public School parent) believe that conversations between teachers and their students will increasingly be less about grades, and more about habits and resilience that not only lay the foundation for excellence, but also mould their self-confidence, identity and self-perception. Such ongoing, developing habits of mind have been proven to progress throughout a student's career and are also critical as they transition into adulthood.

According to Dr. Booma and the Resilience Project team, "good mental health is not just the absence of illness, but instead the presence of well-being. Resilience – the ability to cope and adapt in the setting of adversity, is one measure of mental health. Every individual has a capacity for resilience, but it needs nurturing and cultivation through childhood, and into adulthood. Parents, peers and other caring adults play vital roles in helping to cultivate resilience in children and adolescents.”

The Resilience Project offers school support (school support teams, in-service sessions and an annual educational summit) and parent support (partnership with PTSO, parents’ programs and educational sessions, and access to care for children and adolescents).

“In my work with the SAC [Superintendent’s Advisory Committee] and Challenge Success, I’ve seen multiple data sources that indicate stress and anxiety in our adolescents is on the rise,” said Anne D. Hall, Co-Chair of the SAC on Social Emotional Learning. “I continue to hear from families who struggle to navigate these waters with their teens. Parenting adolescents is complicated; we need to be responsive to this issue. The Resilience Project is just one organization that is ready and able to help Wellesley and neighboring communities.”

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