BHHS students taking Health class during first semester are in the midst of their Prepare U unit, an experiential mental health curriculum new to BHHS this year, and designed by a West Bloomfield native, Ryan Beale. According to 9th grade student Caylyn Brandon, “The main goal of Prepare U is not only to benefit people’s mental health, but to have a way for people to think in a different way, to get rid of the negative and bring in more of a positive mindset. It’s like therapy in school.”
Over the course of fifteen lessons, BHHS Health students dig into topics including self-reflection, biopsychosocial reflection, anxiety and stress, anger, suicide, grief, social media and technology, among others. Reflecting after an activity during the 7th lesson covering anger management, 10th grade student Sonny Scafidi shares, “I feel like Prepare U helps people express their feelings more, and better. Some people are scared to talk about their feelings, and they’ve grown up in houses where you don’t really express your feelings. I grew up in a house where you should express your feelings, whether you’re mad, sad or happy. But I feel like this Anger Volcano idea, in this anger lesson, is a great way to learn to express your feelings, whether you grew up in that kind of household or not. I feel like the main goal of Prepare U is to inform people about their overall mental health, and other people’s mental health. It’s very important. Generations before us didn’t really have that luxury. They suppressed a lot of emotions, and that goes along with the houses people grow up in and how you learn to express your feelings. There are a lot of disconnects between us and other generations, like with technology, and with overall language use, and also mental health. I had an idea about that disconnect before this class, but Prepare U helped make it more prominent.”
Emilia Di Vergilio, also a 10th grader, shares “I’ve learned how to deal with my feelings better. Instead of pushing them down, or letting them out in negative ways, I know how to control myself better. In almost every class, we do group circles; at first I found it kind of cheesy, but after we started getting into them, we get into some really good talks and discussions. I share things that I usually wouldn’t think of sharing. The whole class gets into a big circle, and we have a prompt. We’ll go off on large tangents, but they’re always good discussions. A good prompt that we had was the anger one today, because I feel like that’s a big thing for teenagers. We have so much pressure from everything; everyone I know is, at some point, angry.”
Jackson Bragman, a 9th grader, also reflects on the circle experience: “I think it’s good that everyone is speaking out in class during the group circles, because after that everyone feels more bonded, and knows a little more about their classmates. It brings everyone together. You can find your voice, and it gives you confidence to share in other settings.”
Health teacher Amy Scott explains that a typical class structure during the Prepare U unit involves a lesson on the provided topic with a video or reading material, followed by a workbook activity, and finally, a circle discussion where students check in about their experiences with the topic. Each student has their own workbook, and no names are written in them, to protect students’ identities, and allow them to be fully honest in their writing.
9th grade student Caylyn Brandon shares, “we did this one activity that was about negative thoughts about yourself, and how to reverse them. And we realized that it’s not true. That was really beneficial. A lot of people have self deprecating thoughts, and to have a process that helps prove to yourself that they’re not true and that they’re all in your head is really beneficial. First, you had to figure out what the thought was, and what made you think that thought, like what situations made you feel that way. And then you had to have evidence to prove that the thought was true. If you couldn’t think of any, then you had to have evidence to prove that it was not true. Almost always, there was evidence that it wasn’t true.” Brandon continues with, “We’ve read stories that I know will shape the decisions of my life, especially when I’m older, like the story of a drunk driver, and how half of them died, and the other half, their lives are changed forever. Obviously, I wasn’t planning on ever getting in the car with a drunk driver, but hearing actual stories and the effects that they have on people’s lives, just makes it a lot easier to learn when to say no.”
Bragman explains, “The main goal is to overall improve your life, reduce stress and reduce negative thoughts, and try to be at peace with yourself. It’s also about being able to control negative thoughts in a positive way. I think all the classes are helpful and will be beneficial in the long term.”
Prepare U has helped students come up with ideas on how to effect positive mental health changes for themselves as well as their friends and family.