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10 Ideas to Transform K-12 Education

An in-school fix for student stress

A holistic medicine experiment is resulting in happier kids.

As many as 10 percent of children aged 13 to 18 are diagnosed with generalized anxiety, social phobia, PTSD, or other stress disorders. Yet because of transportation, scheduling, and insurance problems — as well as lingering stigma — fewer than 1 in 5 of these children receive the treatment they need.

But here’s the good news: A recent study of Boston-area high schoolers has found that offering holistic therapies like acupuncture at school can decrease symptoms of stress by as much as a third. “These complementary therapies were minimally invasive and cost-effective,” says lead researcher Dr. Nada Milosavljevic, a Massachusetts General Hospital psychiatrist. “And because they were done on-site, they were very accessible for students without disrupting their school day too much.” She offered students at three local schools 30 minutes of aromatherapy, sound therapy, and acupuncture once a week for eight weeks. Not only did the treatment calm students’ worries, it also taught them skills they could use to manage stress outside of school.


Perhaps the best part for the study participants was that the alternative treatments helped destigmatize their mental health challenges. “We found they were willing to talk about things they might have had difficulty mentioning before, which meant they sought out treatment more readily,” Milosavljevic says. “It was fascinating to see; they started bringing their friends in to show them what the treatments were all about. They thought the different therapies were ‘cool.’ ”

This fall, “Dr. Milo,” as she’s known, will launch Sage Tonic, a website and app that will help users customize their own holistic therapies and offer a line of teas and essential-oil towelettes for use on the go.


Use the pull-down menu below to read more stories from the Globe Magazine special issue.

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