West Ranch Wellness Center: Working to Reduce the Stigma and Improve Student’s Mental Health


Tashvi Ratnani and Krish Singh

Mental health plays a huge role in academic and physical performance, and not taking a break every so often may have unintended consequences. As the CDC states on their website, “Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” 

   At West Ranch, the Wellness Center’s mission is to give students the opportunity to learn how to manage and maintain their mental health, especially as they have been adapting to learning during the pandemic.

   Mrs. Phillips, the West Ranch Wellness Center advisor, explained, “Students are learning, or at least they have the opportunity to learn different things to put in their wellness toolkit. I think they’ve learned it’s ok to express yourself in a safe way, I hope they feel that the Wellness Center is a safe place to come.”

   The Wellness Center focuses on helping students manage their mental health and express their feelings in a safe, healthy way; it is always a safe space for students to visit. 

 “One of our goals is to teach coping strategies and different ways to take care of being mentally well, and also trying to reduce the stigma, because sometimes students don’t want to come to the center because they think we’re going to do some therapeutic sort of thing.” Mrs. Phillips explained. 

   Contrary to popular belief, visiting the Wellness Center on campus does not entail a therapy session or intervention; it is a place for students to relax or take a break from the heat and crowd outside. At its core, the Wellness Center is a safe place from the chaotic environment of school. Students can take time to reflect on life both in and out of school, and there is also additional support for students if needed— there will always be someone to talk to at the center. 

     Mental health affects all aspects of our lives. No one can be successful at any aspect of life  without having a healthy mental atmosphere.  

   “A lot of times we talk about physical health and academic wellness, these are two components that are very big, but mental health encompasses both of those,” Mrs. Philips elaborated. “I think if you’re feeling well, if you’re feeling fit, then you’re going to be in a better headspace to learn what you need to, your interpersonal relationships will be improved, so I think it’s more of an umbrella thing.” 

   Both physical and mental wellness are important in our daily lives. The more mentally and physically well someone is, the better their academic, extracurricular, and personal performance will be.

    Students come to the Wellness center for a variety of different reasons. West Ranch Junior Colin Tang, a frequent visitor of the Wellness Center, explained that he comes to the center because it provides a safe place to cope with life, which is something he cannot find at home. Tang said he likes “the place overall. Overall talking to the counselor or to your friends but most importantly relaxing and taking a mental break.” 

   Tang utilizes the Wellness Center to relax and talk about his feelings in a safe environment.

“[The wellness center has] helped me a lot,” he continued. “I went into a slight depression and didn’t have a lot of options back then. Then, someone introduced me to the Wellness Center. Ever since then, I’ve grown and it changed my life. Because before, I could only cope by myself but now I have somewhere to go to and [someone to] talk to.”

   The Wellness Center’s doors are always open for students, whether they want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of academic life, or talk to someone about their emotions. 

   In order to continue focusing on mental health, Mrs. Phillips continues to work hard, planning special events and activities to teach students about the Wellness Center and its purpose. 

    The Steering Committee is a club on campus with a purpose of providing opportunities for students to take care of their mental health and offer peer support. Josh Kim, vice president of the Steering Committee, explained, “The Steering Committee works closely with the Wildcat Wellness Center to positively impact mental health through various activities.”

   Josh says he and the Steering Committee hope the Wellness Center will make a positive impact on students’ mental health. To achieve this goal, the Steering Committee has helped plan events at the Wellness Center such as goat yoga, therapy dogs, and making friendship bracelets.    According to Ms. Phillips, the Wellness Center “had a Freshman day, for freshmen to come [in]. We’re having a Sophomore one, because neither of [the] classes have been on campus. We have dog therapy usually every week, [and] we’re hoping the goats will come back, we’ll have goats on campus.” 

     The center on campus is always ready for new events and suggestions. If students want to get more involved in the Wellness Center, Mrs. Phillips and the Steering Committee will keep on planning a few events for the future. They are always looking to hear from the students themselves so don’t be afraid to reach out! 

   Cats, remember that your mental well-being is top priority— don’t be afraid to reach out to staff or friends and family for help. If you need a break from the diligence of school, stop by the Wellness Center to relax and de-stress.