Lawrenceville, as an academically rigorous and socially demanding school, can often induce stress for many students on campus. Whether it’s an important paper, a difficult test, or a sticky social situation, each day at Lawrenceville brings different sources of stress that end up affecting students’ mental health. The middle of October, especially, can often be a time when students stop focusing on their mental health to prioritize school, sports, and other activities.
If you’ve read any article about mental health, you hear the same mantra over and over: create a balance, have people to talk to, and prioritize self care. But with Lawrenceville’s high expectations and busy schedule, doing these three things can be difficult.
First, creating a balance. Along with the rigorous curriculum that Lawrenceville boasts, the social climate of boarding school can be difficult. Both of these factors create an environment where it is difficult to thrive unless you have a personal system of organization. In general, students acknowledge the level of rigor that the school has and agree that the balance is hard to find as a result. Lyla Petito ’25, a new III Former who has worked to adjust to Lawrenceville’s atmosphere, said, “I think teachers give a lot of homework each night, and not a lot of it [is] busy work, it’s actually difficult work. While I understand it’s beneficial to my learning, as a new student coming into Lawrenceville, especially in the beginning of my [III Form] year, balancing that work along with sports and mental health can be really difficult.”
However, over time, finding a balance is something that is definitely possible. Constance Sharp ’24 notes that this year has been her “best year managing [stress] so far. [II Form] year it crumbled, and [III Form] year was a constant up and down, but [she] thinks it’s all part of the learning process of learning how to manage stress.” She finds that doing homework earlier before study hall and going to bed early are more productive ways to spend her time. While there might not be as much time to socialize, there is less academic stress. As a whole, managing the balance between school and relaxation gets easier with time and experience.
Second, having people to talk to. A helpful resource on campus for students is the School’s counseling services. While for some this works well, others don’t find it as good of a fit. Although for Marlow Mellquist ’25, counseling was not the right permanent fit, she said that counseling is “ a good resource to have, and [she] might definitely go again spontaneously.”
Still, many students on campus don’t take advantage of the counseling services. “There’s some amount of fear about going to the counselors, not [caused by]judgment from peers but how the interaction will go,” Sharp said, “I think that’s definitely gotten better over the course of my experience at Lawrenceville, but I think there should be more of an open relationship between counselors and students. There is still definitely some sort of trepidation.” Although that initial jump can be scary, taking it can be very helpful and create another support system for students. “A lot more people should at least try the counselors,” Sharp said, “If you try them and it doesn’t work, you can say it didn’t work for you. But at least you tried.” While counseling is definitely something people should try, students can find other support groups on campus.
Lastly, prioritizing self care. There are so many forms of self care that different people find suits them. Mellquist talked about her love for taking walks around campus while listening to music. “I love listening to music and just thinking. It’s an easy way to clear my head after a stressful day.”
Similarly, Petito found that “getting that minor exercise in and taking in natural air and light is really helpful.” Overall, Lawrentians seem to know how to find relaxation, even if it is for a short amount of time. However, all three students agreed that they do not get enough time to relax during the day. Sharp and Petitio feel that our daily lives are taken up by the constant feeling of needing to work. Petito noted, “We get lost stressing about work we have to do or athletics we have to compete in, and we feel that we should fill up the little frames of time that we get with studying or athletics instead of relaxing. I think we should take advantage of that free time more to relax and unwind because it will encourage us to do our work.”
While both the administration and students know how stressful Lawrenceville is, the question still remains: should the School give more time for students to focus on their mental health? The answer is a resounding yes. Mellquist thought that the no homework weekends that were put in place were super helpful and should be in place for every weekend. “During the week, at any school you’re going to have to stress but the weekend should be yours,” she said.
Petito offered an alternative view of how Lawrenceville approaches mental health as a whole. “I think Lawrenceville can go around and say that they care about students’ mental health, but I think it’s difficult to transfer those [sentiments]...to actually going through the procedures of helping them do that,” she said. “I think teachers could check in on students [mental health] more…instead of just academic checks. It’ll help everyone accommodate each other.”
Overall, mental health is definitely something on students’ minds every day. While there are times when everyone struggles, taking the time to find what works for you is the best way to a happy and healthy Lawrenceville year.