April 19, 2021

Shifting focus

PCM High School holds Mental Health Day March 29

An entire day focused on de-stressing. In today’s world, that would be welcome for almost everybody. At PCM High School, Mental Health Day is exactly that for the students. A day of no school work, fun activities and taking it easy.

“On Mental Health Day this year, students didn’t attend any classes at all. The entire day was focused on offering activities to help them de-stress and have fun,” teacher and organizer Kristen Burghorn said. “We even added a snack break in the afternoon where students got a free snack.”

In its second year, Mental Health Day took place March 29, starting the week off with activities including playing with puppies and painting rocks instead of traditional classes. The day is broken into four different sessions throughout the day with 19 options to choose from to participate in.

“They range from quiet activities like reading, coloring and napping, to group activities such as board games and stealing sticks. Students pick their top four choices, as well as some alternates in case one of their first choices is full,” Burghorn said.

The sessions offered this year included coloring, playing with Play-Doh/Kinetic Sand, playing with puppies, napping, stealing sticks or dodgeball, laughter/comedy, social time, meditation, yoga, science experiments or building, painting kindness rocks, baking, puzzles, board games or a computer game, making friendship bracelets, reading and journaling.

After holding the first event last year, Burghorn said they put into place feedback they received from students on how to improve the event going forward. One change was having the activities span the entire day, instead of taking just a few hours at the end of the day to participate.

“One of the biggest suggestions we received from students last year was that the sessions were too short,” Burghorn said. “We decided to expand it to a full day this year so sessions could be lengthened to almost an hour. This gave students more of an opportunity to complete their activities.”

Mental health awareness is on the rise and becoming more of a focus for schools. With busy schedules, increased academic demand and an ever-changing world, taking time to focus on mental health is more important than ever.

“In school, we spend the majority of our time focusing on academic content and physical health but don’t spend a lot of time focusing on mental health, which is something I think is incredibly important. There are options available for students to seek out mental health services on their own or in small groups, from meeting with the counselor to being a part of the school’s Stand for the Silent club, but being able to discuss mental health on a whole-school basis is something we are still working on,” Burghorn said. “To be truly healthy, we all need to focus on physical, emotional and mental health. My hope is that days like Mental Health Day help students break the stigma of being uncomfortable talking about mental health and that it also helps them find healthy ways to manage their mental health.”

Two years in, staff is excited to continue with the day and help it grow and improve in the future. The need for a mental health check-in day is only growing and PCM is working to meet that need moving forward.

“Some of the feedback we’ve received is students think we should offer more Mental Health Days throughout the year, and that they appreciate the break,” Burghorn said. “I’m really excited to see what Mental Health Day becomes in the future.”

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com