Teenagers don’t suffer from “real” mental illnesses–they are just moody.
One in five teens has some type of mental health problem in a given year. Ten million children and adolescents suffer from a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. (source)
Statistics like these are sobering and often make us want to look away. No one wants to think about their child becoming depressed –or worse — suicidal. But unfortunately, it’s a reality for many families, and sadly, sometimes it comes as a result of being bullied.
That’s why this fall, teachers and students are doing more than just telling each other to be nice. They’re living it out. In conjunction with the positive anti-bullying campaign with the same title, Jenison Junior High is teaching seventh and eighth graders the importance of seeing the humanity in everyone — and treating them accordingly.
Funded by the West Michigan Mental Health Foundation, “be nice”…
- is more than just saying don’t bully.
- is a strengths-based perspective, and a positive way to minimize bullying. We have learned over the years that just telling someone to stop or don’t is negative and often ignored.
- is a proactive way to encourage kindness among kids, parents, co-workers, etc.
- is all-encompassing. It goes further than just an action. (source)
The idea to incorporate be nice came a year ago through various conversations among staff and after individual teachers began to hear more about the program. Bringing it to the junior high seemed like a logical step:
“Jenison chose to implement the Be Nice program this year with the middle school students as it is a crucial time in their lives where they need feel supported not only by their parents and teachers, but by their peers. This is the time in their lives where they begin to make important decisions on their future and we want to make sure they are making good healthy choices. Be Nice is about anti-bullying, but teaches the students more then just “don’t be a bully”. It teaches students how to stand up for one another and help someone who may be a victim, rather then being a bystander and watching such a hurtful thing happen,” said teacher-advisor, Ms. Rosenberg.
Teacher-advisors Mr. Greenwood, Ms. Rodgers and Ms. Rosenberg are busy planning for an inspiring year which was kicked off by a “be nice” assembly earlier this month (see photos below). In addition, they plan to initiate a “pay it forward” movement of showing kindness to others, then passing along a coin to prompt them to show kindness toward another student. They hope to see compassion and empathy spread through the school.
After “pay it forward,” many activities will student-driven and student-led. “Students get to come up with ideas about how we can BE NICE at Jenison Junior. The BE NICE leaders meet once a month during lunch, we currently have 71 BE NICE student leaders,” said Ms. Rodgers.
With students involved and interested, Mr. Greenwood is hopeful about the future of the program at the junior high. “Although this year is technically a test year, we are hoping that the actual idea of be nice will continue every year!”