By: Craig Mohre, President, New Albany Community Foundation
Jean Twenge’s new book, “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood” may help explain why rates of anxiety, depression and suicide among teenagers are rising at an alarming rate.
Twenge is a psychology professor at San Diego State University who has authored more than 130 scientific publications and six books on the subject. She believes smartphones and other screens promote antisocial behavior, prolong childhood and increase loneliness, depression and political disengagement.
This is not news to many. We have witnessed this in our schools, on college campuses and in communities across the country over the past 10 years.
To his credit, Superintendent Michael Sawyers has identified student well-being as a priority for the New Albany-Plain Local School District.
Well-being is defined as being healthy both physically and mentally. Obviously mental and emotional well-being positively impacts academic performance, but beyond learning, it affects each student’s life experience.
I’m proud of our community for acknowledging these challenges, rather than attempting to conceal them or pretend they don’t exist.
I equally am proud of the New Albany Community Foundation for launching a community dialogue three years ago by hosting mental-health advocate Mariel Hemingway. The famous actress and author delivered a message centered around the importance of bringing these issues into the open and discussing them as adults and with our children.
Last year, the foundation presented Patrick Kennedy, also a mental-health advocate, and in May, it welcomes Elizabeth Vargas to continue this all-important discussion.
With leadership from Sawyers and Assistant Superintendent Marilyn Troyer, community volunteer Rick Bayer and such partners as Healthy New Albany, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Mount Carmel Health System, the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Concord Counseling Services, the city of New Albany, Plain Township and many others, the Well-Being Initiative is well under way and gaining momentum.
Following Hemingway’s visit, the Rocky Fork Co. generously donated funds to support implementing the evidence-based program, Sources of Strength, in New Albany High School.
The program received such positive endorsements from students, teachers and administrators, that it is being expanded to the middle school.
Through the Well-Being Initiative, school counselors and administrators have completed a comprehensive assessment of all programming related to student well-being. The goal is to deploy resources where they are effective, eliminate programs that may not be as effective and identify gaps in the continuum of support provided to students and parents.
The Well-Being Initiative is being guided by a growing advisory group consisting of several volunteer teams. These are New Albany residents and local behavioral-health experts who care about our children and are devoting their time toward a common goal.
To learn more, I encourage you to visit the school district’s website at www.napls.us/studentwellbeing, call Sawyers or Troyer at 614-413-7102 or Rick Bayer at 614-699-4240 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.