By Natalie Mack, news editor
I’ve been taking some form of a health class since about fifth grade. From then, until now, I’ve learned about puberty, eating right, the importance of exercise, how to play badminton and various other games, to stay away from drugs and alcohol, how to run a mile and many other things of importance. However, I feel that there have been several crucial topics left out of the health and wellness curriculum.
Although I’ve never had to deal with any form of depression myself, I’ve been surrounded by a number of different friends and classmates going through mental-health-related issues. I’ve found myself not knowing what to say to them or how to comfort them. I have been confused as to why they’ve been feeling this way and haven’t wanted to say the wrong thing to them. Bottom line, I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. But I should’ve known what to do. I should’ve learned in Wellness class. Although it’s a heavy topic, it is an important one, and needs to be embedded into the curriculum and talked about frequently, so students can recognize the signs and significance of them if they themselves or a friend of theirs is going through something.
In addition, a frequent struggle for many students at Nantucket High School and high schools at large is eating disorders. According to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, 8 million Americans currently struggle with some form of eating disorder. Again, I understand this is a heavy topic to teach and discuss at school and could potentially be triggering for some students. However, I feel that the best and most effective way to prevent or help with an issue is to educate on it. And what better class to do so in? I feel that this would also be helpful for students who know someone struggling with an eating disorder; learning the causes, symptoms, treatment, and proper approach would surely benefit those struggling and those who know someone going through something similar and want to help.
When I spoke with the head of the health department, Elizabeth Davidson, she explained that there are two sets of standards that the department uses to shape its curriculum. She stated that the first way is the MA Comprehensive Health Curriculum Frameworks, which she mentioned hasn’t been updated since 1999. That means it has been left unchanged for 22 years. Longer than any student at the high school has even been alive. Secondly, they utilize the National Health Education Standards. The standards for this program were created by Shape America. Davidson added that each wellness teacher will supplement their units with current events and use organizations specific to the topic. In terms of the topic of eating disorders, Davidson explained that during the mental health unit, students are instructed to research topics and share this information with the rest of the class. She explains that eating disorders could be a possible topic that students are able to research. Furthermore, I was informed that the school provides the SOS (signs of suicide) curriculum for freshmen, and, as of this year, seniors.
As Davidson mentioned, the wellness teachers get their curriculum from outside sources, so the fact that these two topics aren’t heavily included is not entirely their fault. From what I’ve gathered, I think that this is a problem within the health curriculums statewide, even nationwide. As stated, the content in these curriculums hasn’t been updated since 1999. A lot has changed since 1999. According to NCBI, there has been a 24% increase in hospitalizations due to eating disorders from the year 1999-2009. I imagine this number is even higher now. This system and curriculum need to be updated.
I feel that updating these standards would allow everyone involved to become more educated, which can only help. Although it might be hard to completely re-shape the curriculum our wellness teachers use around the state, I feel that just spending a small amount of extra time on subjects like these could truly benefit everyone.