ARIS is proud to offer a Wellbeing Department that is dedicated to supporting the emotional, social, and physical wellbeing of our school community. The department has undergone significant development over the years, and is now known as the Wellbeing Division, led by renowned Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Funke Baffour-Awuah.
The Wellbeing Division works collaboratively with school leadership, administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and other professionals to ensure that all learners have the opportunity to thrive. The division believes that wellbeing is essential to academic success and personal growth, and offers a range of services to support the wellbeing of our school community.
One of the primary services offered by the division is counselling. The division offers individual and group counselling sessions for students, which are tailored to meet their specific needs. Counselling sessions are usually 6 weeks in length, or provided on an as-needed basis, and reflect the specialties of our staff, which can focus on art therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), solution-focused and positive psychology approaches.
Another service offered by the division is social and emotional learning with the ARIS Personalised Wellbeing Curriculum. The curriculum includes 6 modules, which cover key concepts on mental health awareness and equip students with essential psychological skills such as resilience, empathy, communication, and self-awareness. Dr. Funke created the ARIS Personalised Wellbeing Curriculum in 2017, which is based on her educational books.
The division also supports the community with various wellbeing initiatives, such as Wellbeing Day every 14th of February, periodic talks with the medical team, yoga and mindfulness sessions with the Art of Living Ghana, and Exam Cafe for students in Years 11 and 13. For staff, the division offers Wellbeing Wednesdays, weekly Wake-up Aerobics and Yoga classes, as well as monthly Wellbeing Snacks.
The division offers staff and parent education through workshops and webinars on Child Protection and Mental Health Awareness, as well as provides resources for staff and parents to help them support student wellbeing at home and at school. Staff receive periodic and refresher sessions on mental health training which covers common mental health concerns about students, how to assist learners in managing their mental health, how to create a conducive classroom environment, and how to manage their own wellbeing as educators. They also complete an 8-part training on child protection which includes an overview of childhood abuses, the effects of trauma, managing boundaries, and how culture impacts child protection. All of the training is backed by robust child protection and mental health policies, uniquely written for the school community.
The division champions the development and implementation of a clear framework to prioritise and support the wellbeing of all members of the school community. The policies under our wellbeing policy include: Child Protection Policy, Health and Safety Policy, Behaviour and Anti-bullying Policy, SEND Policy, Mental Health Policy, and Bereavement Policy.
Finally, the division has taken care to build culturally appropriate connections to assist our students when their mental health needs exceed our expertise, including counselling referrals to mental health professionals in Ghana, the United States, Europe and Asia. The division also has an active Child Protection team led by Dr. Funke Baffour-Awuah who serves as one of the Africa Regional trainers for the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC).
The DF Mood and Worry Screener
ARIS is committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our students, and the DF Mood and Worry Screener is an important tool in achieving this goal. This specially designed online survey is focused on collecting data on students' mental states throughout the academic year. Students complete the screener four times a year, and the results inform the counselling team about patterns on specific themes such as symptoms of anxiety, low mood, difficulty sleeping, and eating habits.
Once the scores are tallied, counselling interventions are planned out for each individual student needing support. The DF Mood and Worry screener is based on research and adaptation of the Beck Anxiety and Depression inventories. These inventories promote introspection of emotions and feelings, as well as physical symptoms such as feeling lonely, having a poor appetite, and experiencing changes in sleep patterns.
Dr. Funke Baffour-Awuah's expertise as a Clinical Psychologist has enabled her to bring revolutionary practices concerning mental health to ARIS, contributing to our drive and passion to take Al- Rayan International School to further heights in terms of dealing with student mental health and wellbeing. The DF Mood and Worry Screener is one of the many tools that have been introduced to help students manage their mental health and wellbeing effectively. By identifying and addressing mental health concerns early on, we can provide students with the support they need to thrive academically and personally.
Art Therapy for Primary School
The incorporation of art therapy has had a profound impact on our primary students at ARIS. Art therapy is a licensed mental health profession that incorporates the use of art-making, along with traditional talk therapy. The utilisation of art therapy has been deeply integrated into the wellbeing curriculum at the Primary level, and has produced many positive outcomes.
Through the development of the curriculum, it was found that engaging in art activities can prompt more of an emotional exploration than simply asking a child about their feelings. One example of this is having a student draw a picture of where they feel anger inside their body. Students complete an image, and often reflect on the unexpected places where they can locate their feelings, such as their stomach or head. This simple act of “emotional literacy” can help them anticipate and manage negative emotions.
Art therapy also provides the perfect intervention for a cross-cultural setting. As an international school, where many students come from different backgrounds and languages, we find that different situations can easily be misinterpreted. Images allow an even playing ground for our newly transitioning students. Art therapy sessions allow the students to communicate their thoughts and feelings through images, regardless of their language abilities. This allows students to express themselves in a safe and supportive environment and helps them to build their emotional vocabulary.
The inclusion of art therapy in our wellbeing curriculum has been instrumental in helping our students develop emotional literacy, manage their emotions, and build a strong sense of self. It is our commitment to continue to provide innovative and effective wellbeing interventions that promote the holistic development of our students.
Our Wellbeing Division comprises a team of highly trained and experienced professionals who are passionate about promoting mental health and wellbeing in our school community. Led by Dr. Funke Baffour-Awuah, a Clinical Psychologist with extensive experience in the field of mental health, our team includes Ms. Jenea Scott, an Art Therapist and Primary School counsellor who brings unique and creative approaches to supporting our youngest students, and Ms. Priscilla Adjei-Mensah, a Clinical Psychologist and Secondary School counsellor who provides expert guidance and support to our older students.
In addition to our counselling team, we have two dedicated wellbeing facilitators, Mme. Matilda Turkson, Art Therapist and Mr. Samuel Panti, a Clinical Psychologist who work closely with our students to promote positive mental health and wellbeing through our personalised wellbeing curriculum.
At ARIS, we believe that mental health and wellbeing are integral to academic success, and our Wellbeing Team is committed to working closely with teachers, administrators, and families to create a supportive and nurturing school environment for all our students. Our team is highly trained and experienced, and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to their work.
The impact of the Wellbeing Division at ARIS has been significant and far-reaching. The positive school culture and improved relationships among students and staff are a by-product of a mentally sound school environment. Students are conscious about and prioritise their mental health and wellbeing, and this is reflected in the numerous Service as Action and CAS projects focused on promoting positive mental health by our students.
Our counselling services have had countless success stories of helping students develop resilience, feel more confident, and become better equipped to manage challenges. Our counselling team works collaboratively with students, parents, and staff to provide support that is personally tailored to each student's needs. Through individual and group counselling sessions, the team helps students to build their emotional literacy, develop coping strategies, and learn how to navigate challenging situations.
Our wellbeing initiatives have also had a positive impact on our school community. For example, our Wellbeing Day event provides students with an opportunity to learn about different aspects of mental health and wellbeing through engaging activities and workshops. Our yoga and mindfulness sessions, offered in collaboration with the Art of Living Ghana, have helped students and staff develop healthy habits and stress reduction behaviours. These initiatives have also helped to create a sense of community and connectedness among students and staff.
Furthermore, our wellbeing policies and practices, such as our Child Protection Policy and Mental Health Policy, provide a framework for ensuring the wellbeing of all members of our school community. These policies are regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that they remain relevant and effective.
The impact of the Wellbeing Division at ARIS can be seen in the positive changes in our school culture, relationships among students and staff, and the prioritisation of mental health and wellbeing by our students. Our counselling services, wellbeing initiatives, and policies and practices have all contributed to the creation of a mentally sound school environment that supports the holistic development of our students. We are committed to continuing to provide innovative and effective wellbeing interventions that promote the mental health and wellbeing of all members of our school community.
The ARIS Personalised Wellbeing Curriculum is a unique and innovative approach to mental health education that sets our school apart. The curriculum was created by Dr. Funke Baffour-Awuah, who is an author of several psycho-educational books. Dr. Funke's expertise in the field of mental health has enabled her to develop a curriculum that is both evidence-based and reflective of the unique needs of our students.
The curriculum is designed to help our students gain a comprehensive awareness of mental health for young people and provide them with the psychological skills to excel at different stages of their lives. It covers a range of topics including empathy, resilience, self and global awareness, and a holistic understanding of their health, mind and body.
The curriculum is taught from MYP 3 and continues through to DP 2. It is designed to give age-appropriate information for specific concerns that arise for students. The curriculum is based on the ARIS Wellbeing Model, which comprises of six distinct modules:
1. Me, Myself and I: This module focuses on developing self-awareness and understanding one's own emotions, thoughts, and behaviours.
2. Friendship and Relationships: This module emphasises the importance of healthy relationships and provides students with skills to build positive relationships with peers and adults.
3. Embracing Diversity: This module promotes empathy and understanding of different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives.
4. Health, Mind and Body: This module covers a range of topics related to physical and mental health, including nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and mental health disorders.
5. Me and My Future: This module focuses on goal-setting, planning, and preparing for the future.
6. Me and the World: This module encourages students to think about their role in the world and how they can make a positive impact on their communities and society.
The ARIS Personalised Wellbeing Curriculum has been instrumental in promoting mental health and wellbeing among our students. By providing them with the knowledge and skills to manage their mental health, we are setting them up for success both academically and personally.
Me, Myself and I: In this module, students investigate what makes them distinctive as individuals, how they fit in with others and what their place is in the greater scheme of things. Through a lot of introspection, they become more capable of adapting to the changes they experience, the various personalities of the people around them and distributing responsibilities in the sake of a greater objective. Students who are given the opportunity to express their emotions feel more in control, which emphasises the value of keeping this in mind despite their busy schedules.
Friendships and Relationships: Friendship and Relationships is a module that explores the different kinds of relationships students will develop during adolescence, including platonic, romantic and familial bonds. This module teaches students how to recognise negative traits within a relationship, and how best to handle and navigate these difficult relationships. The module teaches students how to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships, the development of feelings and what to do when they are unreciprocated. Understanding boundaries is also a core element of this module as students learn how to be assertive and respond adequately to relationships with figures outside of their family. Students gain a real understanding of friendships and what it means to form long-lasting bonds and connections with others.
Embracing Diversity: In this module students will learn what diversity means and why it is important to embrace each other’s differences. They will also embark on unlearning some hindrances to embracing diversity such as prejudice, stereotyping, stigmatisation and the numerous forms of discrimination. Students will explore the treatment of people with protected characteristics such as special needs, old age, disability, gender reassignment amongst others. It is important to understand what it is like to be treated differently because of a status that does not form a part of the majority. As such, students will explore the experiences of people of different races and ethnicities, immigrants, people who require learning support, the marginalised, the poverty stricken and many more through case studies and scenarios. They will also discover the effect of racism, xenophobia, abuse of human rights of immigrants and child slaves, and work together to develop possible solutions to these issues. Students will also explore the topics of sexuality and gender identities and its implications in our societies. They will then come up with ways to be more welcoming of all people, and navigate the shift from a divided society to a more blended one.
Health, Mind and Body: Health, Mind and Body is a module that places great emphasis on leading a happier life. It explores the good, the bad and the ugly side to the relationships one can experience with food, their body, mental state and relationships. During adolescence, many challenges arise with learning to accept bodily changes amidst societal and media pressure. This module teaches students how to strengthen their relationship with their body, and the ways in which they can look after it with good nutrition and regular exercise. At all stages of the student journey, challenges arise that can impact a student's mental health. This module aims to empower students through developing their knowledge and dispelling all the myths and stigma associated with mental health. By offering coping strategies to ameliorate anxiety and depression, the module teaches students how best to respond and look after their mental health.
Me and My Future: The Module Me and my future is designed to help students understand how to better prepare for their future. With a deeper understanding of what the future holds, students will learn how to design and use a plan, understand how to handle money and in later years, understand how things like living alone and buying a car can have an impact on wellbeing. Planning for one's future with an understanding of the kinds of events that can be expected aims to reduce overall anxiety surrounding the unknown aspects of the future. In early years, students will learn how to develop a list of goals and create a plan to help achieve them. Students are then encouraged to explore their interests, hobbies and possible career options. As such, they will also be able to explore non - conventional options such as internships and becoming an entrepreneur. In addition to the taught sessions, there are many lessons which will require students to become independent in their learning and work with self - found resources.
Me and the World: The module Me and the World is dedicated to broadening the horizons of students. It focuses on building students up to be well informed, open-minded, and caring, placing them on a path to uncover how they can make a positive impact as citizens of the world. Amidst the many developments of adolescence, negative views on one’s abilities, self-image and way of thinking arise. In this module, students will initially explore what it means to be an individual in the world and how to form positive thinking strategies. This module also covers global citizenship, which teaches the essence of being globally minded and embracing your civic responsibilities as a member of the world. To connect on a deeper level with others and with themselves, students will learn about emotional intelligence. This entails becoming more aware of their emotions and emotional states and learning how to healthily manage their emotions as well as those of others. In the same vein, social intelligence and social skill building is included in this module, with the aim of teaching students how to navigate different social and cultural landscapes, addressing the challenges some individuals face with social interactions such as anxiety, and learning how to overcome these challenges. Students will be introduced to the issues of social media addiction and managing their online presence, especially in the age of technology where so many young people are susceptible to recruitment by terrorists and all forms of predators. They will learn to be more careful with the information they share online which could have an impact in their lives, as well as the issue of cyberbullying which is a persisting challenge in the age of social media.
At ARIS, our Wellbeing Division is dedicated to promoting the mental health and wellbeing of our students through the transformative ARIS Personalised Wellbeing Curriculum. Led by Dr. Funke Baffour-Awuah and supported by a team of passionate professionals, we strive to create a nurturing and supportive environment where students can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.
The ARIS Personalised Wellbeing Curriculum is at the heart of our approach, providing students with a comprehensive set of skills and knowledge to navigate life's challenges. Through modules focused on self-awareness, healthy relationships, embracing diversity, physical and mental health, future planning, and global citizenship, our students develop the tools they need to flourish in all aspects of their lives.
Our dedicated team of counsellors and wellbeing facilitators works closely with students, parents, teachers, and staff to provide personalised support and guidance. By fostering positive relationships, open dialogue, and evidence-based practices, we empower our students to navigate their emotions, build resilience, and foster a strong sense of self.
The impact of our Wellbeing Division and the ARIS Personalised Wellbeing Curriculum is evident in the positive changes we observe in our school culture and the growing awareness and prioritisation of mental health and wellbeing among our students. Through the curriculum's emphasis on self-awareness, emotional literacy, and healthy relationships, our students develop the skills needed to face life's challenges with confidence and resilience.
We are proud of the success stories and growth we witness within our school community. At ARIS, we remain committed to providing innovative and effective interventions, supporting the holistic development of our students, and cultivating an environment where every student feels valued, supported, and empowered.
Join us on this journey of wellbeing as we continue to evolve and adapt, ensuring that our wellbeing initiatives remain at the forefront of promoting mental health and wellbeing in our school community.