Students of the Stella K. Abraham (SKA) High School for Girls were treated to ten workshops presented by Mrs. Chanie Delman, LCSW, clinical director at Madraigos, coaching them to develop healthy mindsets and skills in responding to two different sets of challenges facing today’s teenagers. Each ninth-grade class participated in workshops on social media/internet safety, while workshops on body-image issues were presented to each tenth-grade class. In view of Madraigos’s greater goal of improving and maintaining good mental health among the teenage population, it was natural that the SKA high school invited Mrs. Delman of Madraigos to deliver a presentation on these topics.
Teenagers are becoming more and more connected through technology. Approximately 75% of all American teens have a profile on a social-networking site and many of them visit social-networking sites every day, some of them multiple times each day. While there are some distinct benefits of the easy availability of being connected, there are also many disadvantages and risks associated with this activity. Because of teenagers’ high impulsivity level, teens are more prone to post thoughts, stories, and/or pictures before giving a chance to consider the potential consequences and negative repercussions. Undesirable consequences can range from developing dependence on social media/internet and/or cell phones, embarrassment arising from poor choice of words or photos shared, or becoming ensnared in the nefarious designs of cyber criminals and predators perusing popular social-networking sites.
After advising the students of the risks and potential pitfalls of engaging with social media and internet, Mrs. Delman provided the ninth-graders with guidance on appropriate safety measures to take when engaging social media/internet. Included in this were instructions never to give out personal information, photos, or physical location to people/users they were not familiar with. Students were reminded that once the information leaves one’s private domain, it becomes totally and permanently public within seconds; shared information or photographs can never be retrieved. Lastly, students were strongly urged never to meet in person anyone that they “met” on social media/internet.
Teenage girls in particular are more likely than the general population to have an unhealthy body image, often wishing that they could change their body size or shape to match an idealized body image, based on messages from the media, advertisers, social media, and pressure applied by family and peers. People with a negative body image continually compare their bodies to others they view as the “popular crowd,” feel shame, anxiety, and self-consciousness about their bodies, and may have a distorted perception of their shape and size. The impact of such negative body images on a teenager’s mental and physical health runs deep, leading to low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders. Mrs. Delman helped the tenth-graders understand the importance of challenging these self-defeating thoughts by understanding that they are often a product of unhealthy messages preaching the preeminence of looking “pretty” and being thin, over all other personal attributes that have far greater relevance for bettering society. Mrs. Delman showed the students a teen-savvy slide presentation which depicted some of the sources of these unhealthy messages. These include pressure applied by family and friends who harangue or tease the teenager about her appearance, insisting that she will not be successful or happy unless she “measures up” to an impossible “gold standard.” Being continuously bombarded by these messages can cause a teenager to buy into the notion that “If I looked like her (i.e., a model or actress), I, too, would be loved by the world,” or “I will enjoy more happiness and fulfillment in life.”
The students were taught to view themselves using healthier barometers of one’s worth such as friendliness, ability to love, loyalty, inner wisdom, and creativity. This presentation triggered intense discussion among the students, some of whom maintained that they had positive body images which helped them adjust to life’s vicissitudes, while other students expressed an interest on working to improve their body images. It is evident that Madraigos’s work with the high-school students has the potential to have long-lasting positive effects on their body image, self-esteem, and associated mental health.
The social media/internet safety workshop and body-image workshop are just two examples of the suite of services offered through Madraigos’s school-based services program. In this program, the Madraigos team of professionals and social-work interns assist local yeshivas and high-school staff in meeting the social and emotional needs of their students.
Additional services that Madraigos provides include the afterschool “lounge” program, year-round events, in-school programs, as well as parent and community education. For teenagers struggling with substance abuse, Madraigos provides a myriad of lifesaving clinical intervention services that ensure that the young adults and their families receive caring and comprehensive support and guidance during their most difficult times. The mission of Madraigos is clear: To provide all of its members with the necessary tools and skills to empower them to live a healthy and productive lifestyle and become the leaders of tomorrow.