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Embracing Tech: Leveraging Innovation in Wellness

By Michelle Hirschy, director of wellness
Innovative technology opens the door to new wellness interventions.  
In an age when technology continues to have a profound impact on our mental health, there is also tremendous opportunity to leverage these advancements to enhance our well-being. Technology such as social media has fundamentally changed how we interact and function, and for the most part, not in a positive way. However, tools like biofeedback, AI, and other emerging technologies can serve as powerful allies in the behavioral health field which is often under-resourced and hard to access in terms of care.

Since technology has become an inseparable part of young people’s lives, there is a pressing need to meet students where they are with interventions that appeal to a generation deeply immersed in the fast-paced, dopamine-seeking world of social media. Herein lies the opportunity to use innovative technology in ways that make inaccessible, underutilized, yet impactful interventions new and exciting. 

Enter a headband, containing advanced EEG technology that can sense when your mind is active and distracted, neutral and at rest, or calm and deeply focused. This level of biofeedback can train a student to acquire voluntary control of an automatic bodily function. Rather than telling someone to “calm down and take a deep breath”, it gives them real-time feedback on whether or not they are, in fact, calm and focused. This tool is being used right now to bring learning to life in our AP Psychology class as well as in the counseling offices for Upper School students who need help centering themselves in a time of distress. 

We are just starting to envision the potential positive influence that AI can bring to the domains of wellness and mental health. An initiative called A Friend in Me* is another example of our innovative strategy to enhance the well-being of students. This unique program tailored for 8–10-year-olds, focuses on nurturing self-awareness, resilience and compassion through engaging workshops with an AI chatbot during their design and innovation class. The chatbot, Sparkle, acts as a supportive companion guiding children through their social and emotional learning journey. While AI can’t replace the warmth of human interaction, it can be used to enhance engagement and enrich the children’s social-emotional toolbox, preparing them for life’s challenges.

Parents of younger children have options, too. There are applications available that utilize a heart rate monitor to help track big feelings in children. One particular program engages children in a video game that is designed to become more difficult and stressful as time goes on. When the child experiences a stress response, the game walks them through techniques to lower their heart rate. Over time, it can empower kids to recognize and control their responses to distress, instilling confidence in their emotional resilience. 

As we continue to navigate this intricate dance between technology and well-being, let us not dismiss the transformative potential that can lie within these innovations. Technology can be a powerful partner as we look to support a generation that has been bombarded with obstacles and challenges impacting their mental health. We have the opportunity to create tailored,  accessible and preventative solutions that address the unique experiences and challenges of today’s generation. 

*Information about A Friend in Me was shared in consultation with Jean-Baptiste Passot, our partner on this project. To learn more about this program, email contact@afriendinme.ai.

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