AMES, Iowa (WHO) — Students at Ames High School now have a new amenity to serve as a resource for mental health.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the district has seen a need for mental health resources, according to Nicole Patton, the Associate Principal at Ames High School.
Ames High introduced five counselors to the school to help students in need when they readjusted to in-person classes following online learning. While this has been successful in helping students, Patton said she realized more could be done.
“What we did realize with that was that a lot of those students who were seeing those counselors were our higher students of need… and we have nothing for our everyday student who might have a little bit of a panic attack or anxiety before a test or before a big game, or just need that quiet space to just get grounded again once more,” Patton said.
As a result, the high school partnered with Brain Health, a grassroots organization hoping to change how mental health is talked about, starting with abolishing the term “mental illness” and replacing it with “brain health.”
They spent a year researching and creating the new Brain Health Retreat Room.
Patton said, “For them to be the most successful student they can be at Ames High, we needed to do something as a district and as Ames High to make our kids whole and just help them as best we could as a whole person and not just academically.”
Now, the amenity is open and available to students. Anyone can come to the room for 15-minute intervals to feel grounded again. When students come in, they first turn their phones off and place them in a bin.
The room has hug chairs and a couch for students to sit on or take a power nap. There are books on mental health where students can learn more about themselves. They can also spend the time coloring or playing in a sandbox and other fidget toys.
Julie Bryant is the professional school counselor who monitors the room and serves as an additional resource for the students.
She said that the room is well received among the student body.
“I think it’s helped kids knowing just even that they have a place to go. Because before it was like, ‘well where do I go, where do I go,’ and we can’t have kids crying in the classroom, or in the hallway, or in the bathroom. So, we want them to be able to have a place to go where they know they can go if they’re struggling,” said Bryant.