Alexis Clarke, Head of Secondary – Wellbeing
The word ‘wellbeing’ has increased in usage over the last decade and is now a familiar buzzword. It was used frequently by the media during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in relation to mental health. However, unlike other fashionable words coined by transitory events or cultural fads, ‘wellbeing’ may be here to stay.
So, what does wellbeing actually mean?
In the 1600s, the Italians used the word ‘benessere’ to refer to one’s mental and physical health. Although it has been widely accepted that this is where the concept of wellbeing originated, Greek philosopher Aristotle’s idea of ‘eudaimonia’, coined in the 4th Century BC, can also be translated as ‘welfare’ or ‘happiness’. Both words refer to mental and physical health; however, if you google the definition of wellbeing today, you will discover a variety of synonyms. Wellbeing is not just about mental health, nor is it about feelings. It encompasses more than just physical wellness. It is about recognising how we manage our emotions from day to day and about developing the resilience required to deal with difficult times. It can be concluded that wellbeing is subjective, complex, and contextual.
Over the past couple of years, I have been reflecting on where and how wellbeing fits at Kuyper. The importance of wellbeing is not a new idea to God’s people, or to Kuyper. As Christians living in a fallen world, our approach to wellbeing is Christ-centred and framed by a Biblical worldview. We understand the importance of spiritual wellbeing, as we foster and encourage our relationship with Christ and each other. And over the past 40 years Kuyper staff have been committed to providing for and addressing students’ wellbeing, not only spiritually, but also physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially, using a variety of resources and tools.
This year, we shifted terminology and focus from ‘welfare’, which often has negative, reactionary connotations, to ‘wellbeing’. We feel this better reflects our core values and the important role we play as parents and teachers of young people. This change has been timely, given the events of the past few years. Recent evidence confirms the benefit of openly discussing and actively promoting spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual and social health and wellness.
At a recent Wellbeing Symposium, I was reminded of research into the impact of organisations, such as schools, on a community’s wellbeing. When community organisations are intentional and proactive in addressing wellbeing, community members learn the skills they need to regulate their emotional responses and build resilience.
At Kuyper, wellbeing has always been part of our culture. We already do so much in this area. As we adjust to a new outlook post-COVID, it is essential that we model and teach our students the ways in which we care for our own wellbeing and that of others. Doing this openly will encourage a generation to approach wellbeing from a Christian perspective, by including spiritual health and wellness and imitating Christ by considering the wellbeing of others above their own. As scripture teaches us:
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6
Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build him up.Romans 15:2