Photograph outdoors on a beautiful sunny day with blue sky and clouds and trees in the background and a fair event being held in a school parking lot with people, tents, and activities in the foreground

In an inspiring effort to promote mental health awareness, Woodbridge High School has launched a series of initiatives to educate and support student wellness. These efforts include hosting a mental wellness two-mile walk and Mental Health Resource Fair benefiting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Woodbridge High’s commitment to mental wellness extends beyond the walk. They have partnered with the national clothing brand NOSOLO to create custom long sleeved shirts, supporting NAMI. Furthermore, the proceeds from the recently held wellness walk and resource fair, which attracted over 120 attendees, will be donated to the Prince William County NAMI chapter.

Lynne Wooten-Mitchell, school counselor, and Tina DiGiacomo, New Horizons mental health therapist, coordinated the event in conjunction with the newly formed Woodbridge High School NAMI on Campus Club. They serve as advisors for the first NAMI high school club in the state of Virginia. NAMI on Campus high school clubs are student-led clubs that raise mental health awareness and reduce the stigma on campus through peer-led activities and education. Club advisors state that they are excited to work with these student leaders who are invested in reducing the stigma of mental illness by educating their school community.

Joseph Lederman, Woodbridge High’s counseling director, expressed his enthusiasm about the community’s involvement and the variety of resources showcased. “The event saw participation from various community partners, including Prince William Community Services, local healthcare providers, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, emphasizing a collective effort towards mental wellness.”

The initiatives culminated with the school’s theater production of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” set in a 1960s psychiatric institute. This unique portrayal aims to educate on the evolution of mental healthcare over the past 60 years and to translate the play’s themes into a modern and relevant context. The production was a part of a broader effort to promote mental health and wellness within the student community.

“We told this well-known story through a new lens,” said Krista, a junior who portrayed Lady Capulet. “Even if you think you know the story of Romeo and Juliet, this show takes a new spin on these characters and shows that it is not just a love story."

In preparation for the play, the school engaged in several activities, including partnering with school counselors to provide educational resources, having mental health professionals advise on the portrayal of mental illness in the production, and ensuring the presence of representatives from NAMI and other organizations during the shows to offer support and resources to the audience.

Additionally, all ninth grade English students received free tickets to the play, integrating it into their curriculum. A “Community Talk Back” session also took place post-matinee to discuss mental health issues and break the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Parker Hallman, the school’s theater arts teacher and artistic director, highlights this as a compelling story that showcases not only Woodbridge’s strong performing arts program but also its commitment to mental health education.

This multifaceted approach by Woodbridge represents a significant stride in promoting mental wellness and support within the PWCS community.