In January 2016, NAIS partnered with the National School Climate Center (NSCC) and the Winston Preparatory School (New York) to conduct a new survey on well-being in the independent school community. The survey gathers information on topics related to promoting well-being in independent schools, instructional and relational efforts, college admissions and counseling, sexual-social-emotional experiences, anxiety, and depression, as well as learning requirements to better meet the wellness needs of their students.
Student anxiety and depression are by far the most commonly mentioned mental health and well-being issues reported both by staff and by students themselves. A lack of time and teacher training were reported as the top two barriers to promoting well-being in schools. Face-to-face consultations/conversations and case studies with school examples were identified as the primary resources that would help schools further wellness among students and staff.
Policies to promote well-being are widespread in independent schools. Most schools report substantial time allocations to various prosocial instruction practices, such as character education, social/emotional skill development, and positive psychology. A large majority of independent schools offer sexuality education that is outside the realm of biology, with most providing guidelines for mutual respect in relationships, sexual harassment prevention, as well as guidelines in other areas of sexuality education.
When dealing with anxiety and depression, most schools have taken action in the past five years, such as increased counseling, including relying on a social worker and psychologist staff and greater collaboration with other mental health partners and outside agencies.
Most heads of school express interest in learning more about research-based information and guidelines and tools regarding issues of wellness and well-being. They are especially interested in further understanding and addressing anxiety and depression, support of student learning about healthy social/emotional/sexual development, and policies and rules designed to enhance wellness.
When compared to the overall demographics of NAIS schools, survey respondents were less likely to be from small schools with fewer than 200 students.