Lauren Hannani culture editor
Since the beginning of the year, the NormanAid Center has devoted each month to a different theme to improve mental health among students, including the most recent “Managing Grief” in March and “Love is Love” in February. This month centers on an issue that affects high schoolers here and around the world daily: the struggle with self-confidence and body image.
When intervention counselor Ali Norman-Franks came up with the theme “Accept Yourself,” her goal was to work with peer counselors in creating ways to best support students and help them develop a strong sense of self in the environment in which they live.
“Living here in LA, we’re surrounded by what is seen as the ideal image that’s not necessarily even real…they’re photoshopped. So I think that we’re really hit by it,” Norman-Franks said. “And this age in general, when students are trying to fit in and sometimes feel the need to be perfect, to be accepted, body image and the struggle with accepting yourself is really strong.”
In order to increase awareness about eating disorders and body image, Norman-Franks invited representatives from Rosewood, an eating disorder clinic, to talk to P.E. classes about the ways social media and the community impact body image and the strategies one can use to boost self-esteem.
“I really like that the presentation wasn’t just about eating disorders, but it also talked about body image, something that everybody faces on a daily basis,” junior Megan Halavi said. “I learned that some days are good days, and others aren’t so great, but that’s normal and a human characteristic.”
As part of Service Learning, Halavi also helped come up with the idea for Kindness Grams, which gives students the chance to write a kind and appreciative note to their friends or teachers during lunch.
“I was inspired by this month’s theme being ‘Accept Yourself’ and I wanted to do something that would spread positive energy around the school,” Halavi said. “I felt that if students, teachers and staff could send each other positive messages, it could make someone’s day. Overall, my goal is to get people to recognize that there are people out there that care about them and that they are perfect as they are.”
Senior Lital Peykar loves the idea of the Kindness Grams since thanking family and friends is something that she feels like people can forget to do.
“As students, we may not have the time to tell others we appreciate them, so this is a great way to take time out of our day to actually express our gratitude toward teachers, friends and administrators,” Peykar said.
Norman-Franks hopes that this addition to the month’s events will spread a positive message around the school to remember to support and accept the people around you.
“I think that if a full-blown eating disorder happens, it’s an issue, but even if it’s a body image concern where someone feels really bad about themselves, it impacts their self-esteem. It can affect their relationship not only with themselves but with others, it can impact their academics,” Norman-Franks said. “So having a strong sense of self-worth helps students on so many levels.”
Senior Zoe Bertet also thinks that the month’s theme will help students who might not feel confident or happy with their body image know that the feeling is normal and that other friends can relate.
“I think everyone has moments where they don’t feel confident or self-loving,” Bertet said. “It’s important to to share those thoughts with people who you’re comfortable with and learn not only more about yourself but maybe more about others. Then it’s not as debilitating to feel unhappy about these emotions because you know that everyone goes through similar experiences.”
Although making a Kindness Gram for a friend or speaking to others about the issue is encouraged, Norman-Franks also encourages those who feel like they need more help to visit the Norman Aid Center for more resources.
“As amazing as a Kindness Gram is, if someone is really battling a body image or eating disorder issue, they need the right help. So we want students to feel like these are things that are okay to talk about at school, that we have help here, and if they don’t feel comfortable here or if they need more services, then we can refer them to an outside community support or to an outside treatment center,” Norman-Franks said. “Really the goal is to get students to start talking about it, to get them to see what is normal and what could be a disorder, and to feel comfortable seeking support.”
In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, the Norman Aid is hosting a movie screening for “Holden On” on Sunday, May 6, at the Salter Theater. Tickets can be bought at https://normanaid.eventbrite.com.