Reading, ‘riting and wellness

Fifteen San Francisco high schools offer a wellness center where students can discuss depression, anger, anxiety, addiction or just stress.

In a recent districtwide survey of teachers who had referred students to Wellness Centers, three-quarters reported greater academic success. Eighty-six percent said they noticed that the students had improved emotional well-being.

“Our No. 1 need is more mental health clinicians,” said Jessica Stein Colvin, who runs the wellness center at Galilieo High. “There is mental health therapy happening here all the time. Every single clinical space is used every hour of the day.”

Rahsaan, a 17-year-old a senior at Galileo, broke up with his girlfriend last year. He is estranged from his parents and siblings — he has lived in the Bayview district with his disabled grandfather, whom he has cared for for more than 10 years.

Last semester, he said, his grades plummeted when he hit an emotional wall.

“I was outside and one of the teachers saw me crying and they brought me down here,” Rahsaan said. “Jessica and the other teacher stayed here after school to make sure I wasn’t going to harm myself or anything. It helped me a lot because I was, like, literally going to kick somebody’s ass and not care about the consequences.”

The wellness centers were started after the Columbine massacre, when many schools were trying to reach troubled teenagers. “We took an approach that was particular to random acts of violence and decided to go broad and provide a spectrum of services so we could reach as many students as possible,” said Kevin Gogin, director of School Health Programs.