Wellness Center hosts mental health workshops

WHS’s new Wellness Center began hosting Wellness Wednesday workshops on Oct. 6 and will continue them throughout the year. The workshops occur twice a month and cover various mental health topics such as mindfulness, gratitude and the benefits of boundaries.

The Wellness Room, located in 11W, is a new addition to the WHS campus this year. After receiving funds from COVID–19 relief, Conejo Valley Unified School District was able to provide more mental health support to students by implementing wellness rooms on all high school campuses.

“I think that a lot of the kids are struggling with mental health issues,” said WHS mental health clinician Jennifer Julian. “Teenagers in general struggle with mental health, and now to add this pandemic on top, [the Wellness Center] is one way for them to easily access help and learn coping skills and get support while they’re on campus.”

The Wellness Center offers many resources for students, including individual sessions, weekly group sessions and Tuesday talks during lunch. Students are welcome anytime during the school day to talk, unwind from a stressful day or just stop by and get some candy.

“I love [the Wellness Center],” said Finley Aghassi ’25. “Coming in whenever is fun but the [workshops] too, I’ve learned a lot from recently … Sometimes I’ll come in to get candy, and it’s just so welcoming. [It’s] very pretty and calming.”

Another resource that the center has are the Wellness Wednesday workshops which take place during first period. These workshops began after a meeting with all the district’s high school mental health clinicians as a way to publicize the wellness rooms and offer more specific support about certain topics for students who need it.

“We call ourselves the ‘Wellness Wizards,'” said Julian. “We all collaborate together, and we decide what we’re noticing on the different campuses, and we brainstorm ideas of how we can support the most students.”

The most recent Wellness Wednesday workshop on Nov. 3 was about mindfulness. The one before that on Oct. 20 covered test–taking anxiety, how to tame it and how to effectively study for tests.

“That [workshop] definitely helped,” said Aghassi. “I didn’t realize the sort of anxiety that I get is a normal thing [that] other people get.”

The workshop also discussed specific methods of dealing with test–taking anxiety during tests, such as focusing on being mentally present. For before tests, students can utilize study methods like the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that alternates work and break intervals.

“[The workshop] was pretty helpful,” said Alexa Suttiruttana ’25. “They gave us some study advice like [using] the Pomodoro Technique. I hadn’t known about that until they told me, so that was really helpful.”

Julian and the other mental health clinicians noticed how prevalent anxiety is in students’ lives with the return to in–person school and chose topics accordingly that teach students different coping skills. The November workshops will be about gratitude and self–care.

“​​Sometimes you don’t have the time to take care of yourself and fill your own cup, so we’re doing one workshop geared towards that because we know that there’s a lot of … burnout and anxiety in teenagers,” said Julian.

The workshops are usually led by Julian or one of her three interns from Cal Lutheran University who are working to earn Master’s degrees in marriage and family therapy.

“I’m always there while [the interns] are running the workshops, but certain interns are more passionate about different topics, so I let them take the lead in something they feel inspired about or something that they feel really passionate about,” said Julian. “I want them to be able to run that workshop because I feel that their passion rubs off, and it’s just more helpful that way to get across to the kids.”

Students can sign up for the workshops at the Wellness Center, and those who wish to attend but have a first period will be excused from class. Upcoming workshop topics include gratitude on Nov. 17, the benefits of boundaries on Dec. 1 and self–care strategies on Dec. 15.

“This is the first year the wellness rooms have been on any of the high school campuses so we’re really here for you guys, to support you students,” said Julian. “Please don’t hesitate [with] suggestions. We’re here to support you and make your high school experience just a little bit easier.”