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High School students to learn the science of well-being

Local mental health professionals say they are seeing more and more teenagers struggling with their mental health because of the COVID-19 virus impact, especially the shutdowns, lack of social outlets, and virtual learning programs implemented to end the pandemic.

Their assessment matches data released by Mental Health America which found that youth mental health in the US. is worsening. In its 2021 State of Mental Health in America report, MHA found that 9.7% of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression, compared to 9.2% in the prior year. The rate is even higher, they said, for youth who identify as more than one race, at 12.4%.

It’s an alarming trend and one that will need healthcare and treatment resources dedicated to it over the coming years to stem and hopefully reverse it.

That’s why it’s especially hopeful to see New Bedford native and professor of psychology at Yale University Dr. Laurie Santos move ahead with her plan to bring mental health curriculum to high school students.

In a virtual talk she gave in October about coping with the pandemic, Dr. Santos advocated for creating mental health curriculum to help high school students become more resilient.

“We really do need to think seriously about whether or not educators need to be building this kind of mental health protective strategies into their content that they’re already developing,” she said at the time.

Now, Dr. Santos’ “happiness” class — the Psychology and the Good Life course she introduced at Yale University — is being offered free to more than 550 low-income U.S. high school students beginning today. In addition to receiving access to Santos’ lectures, students will be supported by both a local teacher at their high school and a Yale Teaching Fellow.

“Our goal is to equip students with scientifically validated strategies for living a more satisfying life, while also creating opportunities for high-striving low-income students and students of color to demonstrate college-readiness,” Santos said in a released statement.

The high school program was developed in partnership with the University of Connecticut and the National Education Equity Lab with support from the Arthur M. Blank Foundation. Cities where it will be offered include Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, and New Haven.

Schools can still express interest in the program on Dr. Santos’ website here.

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