First Lady McCray, Health Commissioner Bassett Announce the Creation of 15 New High School Wellness Spaces Designed to Promote Mental Health

Mental Health by Design, funded through ThriveNYC, awarded $10,000 grants to fund projects including gardens, murals, and meditation rooms. Projects across five boroughs will reach nearly 10,000 students.

October 25, 2017 — First Lady Chirlane McCray and Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett today announced the completion of 15 wellness spaces at public high schools citywide, reaching nearly 10,000 students. As part of the Mental Health by Design (MHxD) initiative, funded through ThriveNYC, the schools received $10,000 in services to create spaces that support mental wellbeing, increase physical activity, and promote social cohesion. The MHxD selection committee prioritized applications from schools that illustrated high need and a dedication to improving health equity.

Projects included murals, gardens, meditation or mindfulness rooms, an outdoor classroom, an audio booth, an indoor hydroponic garden, and a restorative justice space. MHxD also partnered with the design agency Hyperakt to hold a three-week Student Development Lab, where students designed posters to promote their school’s project. The grant funding included support from an architectural consultant, and the projects were a collaboration between students, faculty, and the architects. The award was administered by the Fund for Public Health in New York City in partnership with the Health Department. MHxD is an extension of Active Design in Schools, an award program executed by the Health Department that supports infrastructure enhancements in schools to promote physical activity and healthy living.

“Take a seat and pay attention to your breath. Should your attention wander, try to refocus…. Those are words thousands of public school students in NYC may hear as they learn to connect their emotions to the way their bodies are feeling. I am excited about this collaboration between Mental Health by Design and ThriveNYC that will introduce meditation and other wellness tools to the classroom. Our young people will learn new skills while learning the importance of mental wellness,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who leads the City’s mental health and substance misuse efforts.

“Mental Health by Design promotes healthy physical environments in schools by funding built environment projects like gardens, art and music rooms, and meditation rooms,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “This initiative invests in high-poverty neighborhood schools to help students pursue mindfulness, increase physical activity, social inclusion, and mental health support. This is just another way the Health Department is making mental health resources more accessible to New Yorkers.”

About the MHxD Student Development Lab

To encourage student-led promotion of the new spaces, 30 students (two from each school) participated in the MHxD Student Development Lab, a three-week interactive and collaborative effort that taught participants about the fundamentals of storytelling, design and communications for social impact. Developed and led by Hyperakt, a social impact design agency, the Lab taught students the problem-solving, communication and creative skills needed to promote mental health in their communities. Students developed poster campaigns and outreach strategies to increase mental health awareness and promote their school’s new MHxD space.

“Through Mental Health by Design, some of New York’s top young designers collaborated with city high schools to design and build beautiful spaces where students can feel safe and relaxed,” said Architectural Consultant Karen Kubey. “MHxD designers helped bring the schools’ visions to life, creating spaces to support mental health programming like meditation and yoga. MHxD shows how even modest improvements to our built environment can have positive impacts on our mental health and on health equity.”

The following projects were funded through Mental Health by Design:

School Borough Project
1. Brooklyn College Academy Brooklyn Mindfulness Center
2. Gotham Professional Arts Academy Brooklyn Meditation Room
3. Eagle Academy For Young Men II Brooklyn Hydroponic garden
4. Green School: An Academy for Environmental Careers Brooklyn Outdoor Mural & Green Space
5. The Academy for Career and Living Skills Bronx Mindfulness Space
6. Longwood Preparatory High School Bronx Audio Booth
7. Mott Hall V School Bronx Student Artwork Display
8. International School for Liberal Arts Bronx Safe Space
9. High School of Applied Communication Queens Student Lounge
10. P.S. 811Q Queens Garden/Outdoor Classroom
11. Curtis High School Staten Island Garden
12. Port Richmond High School Staten Island Garden
13. Baruch College Campus High School Manhattan Lobby Re-Design
14. Global Learning Collaborative Manhattan Mural
15. Independence High School Manhattan Restorative/Retreat Room

Christopher Miller/Stephanie Buhle, (347) 396-4177


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