Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition program a powerful mental health resource for ARHS students

In a country where forty percent of students are suffering from a variety of mental health disorders, eight percent of which are severe, one may think that there would be accessible mental health resources in every public school.

Unfortunately, most U.S. schools are unable to provide students struggling with mental health a location to not only receive the emotional support they need, but to aid them with their academics as well.  Twelve years ago, a program called Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT) was introduced to Brookline High School in Brookline, MA, making it one of the first programs in the country intended to integrate academics and mental health.

In 2014, that groundbreaking program was brought to ARHS.  

“The goal of BRYT is to marry social-emotional learning with academia,” said Paul Hyry-Dermith, co-founder of the BRYT program.

BRYT provides a quiet and comfortable space for students to go when they need space to process their emotions or to better focus on their school work.   There are a variety of reasons why students enter into the BRYT program, the most common being students are transitioning back into school after a long term stay at a mental health retreat. Other students need time to reintegrate to school after suffering from a concussion.  

Regardless of the reason, BRYT strives to be an extremely inclusive environment and allows students who may not fit the immediate criteria to access the program’s resources.

Every BRYT program is staffed with a licensed clinician and academic tutor.  Here at ARHS, Karen Peters, who is a licensed social worker, runs our BRYT program.  

With comfortable seating, flavorful tea, and dim lighting, Ms. Peters’s room is an academic oasis.  Before becoming the leader of BRYT, Ms. Peters was an outpatient therapist in Easthampton, Mass. and a social worker at the Brattleboro Retreat in Vermont.  

With such a warm and welcoming demeanor it is no surprise that students in BRYT are so fond of her. “Karen is amazing,” said a student.  “She is so good at helping you get organized and getting you into the head-space where you can actually get the work done.  I don’t know how I would have transitioned back into school after my stay at the hospital without her.”

Ms. Peters shares just as much affection for her students. “My favorite thing about BRYT is the students, earning their trust, and being with them through the ups and downs as they navigate their days at school towards success,” she said. “My hope is that BRYT will help teach students long term skills in order to not let anxiety or depression dictate how they get through their days so that they may stay connected to the things that matter to them.”

Students in BRYT feel that the program has been able to improve their lives out of school as well.  

Having access to more resources at school helped to take the pressure off of my parents which helped my life at home,” said an ARHS senior enrolled in BRYT, who noted that BRYT helps not just support students, but student- family relationships, too.

Moving forward, Ms. Peters and her students want to continue to better the atmosphere of BRYT and to bring more awareness to the program itself.  “There needs to be more awareness about the program.  Teachers tend to ask a lot of questions [about what its function is] and it can be humiliating,” said an ARHS sophomore in the BRYT room.  

Although BRYT was only introduced two years ago, it has seen many of ARHS’s student body walk through its doors.  “Recently I’ve seen a greater awareness among teachers about who we are and what we do, but there’s always more work to do.  As time goes on I hope that we are able to become part of the culture here at ARHS,” said Ms. Peters.

There is a message within the BRYT program that contradicts some stereotypical thinking around schooling, that students can still be engaged, intelligent, and successful even if they are not in a typical classroom setting.  

“My hope that through programs like BRYT school cultures can change,” said Ms. Peters. “ I’d like to see schools become more aware of the challenges students face balancing all the different factors in their lives and to accept them for who they are, and where they are in life. Success can come in many different forms.”