At Lakeside we design therapeutic environments within our schools because of the types of students that are referred to us. In their lives there are a lot of pressures, stressors, trauma, adversity, and some personal and educational struggles. It is expected that Lakeside would have environments that are based on healthy relationships with our staff, with the mental health of our students as the primary concern.
However, most schools are working diligently at their academics, their projects, their priorities and their extra-curricular activities. It is usually not the intention of most schools to provide a healthy mental health environment for their students.
In a recent article in The Hechinger Report written by Kavitha Cardoza, she focused on a school environment that is intentionally designed for the mental health of their students. The School District is in Aurora, Colorado and the Superintendent is Rico Munn. Here are some quotes from this article.
When 12-year-old Jayla heard a friend had died by suicide during the pandemic, she was terribly upset. The loss was bad enough, but Jayla carried an extra weight.
“He told me he was having a bad day earlier that week and I didn’t ask him why. I told myself it was my fault because if I wasn’t so fixated on myself and if I would have called him to check up on him, he would still be here,” she said. She was in a “bad place.”
While no one person or factor causes suicide, guilt is a common reaction among family and friends, experts say.
After her friend’s death, Jayla began having anxiety attacks and found her thoughts spiraling out of control. And she couldn’t really turn to anyone at home. “My mom works a lot and my dad really isn’t around, so I really don’t have somebody to talk to. And I don’t want to stress my grandma, she’s too old to worry about what I’m doing.”
She said having someone at school who could help was “really, really important.” And she knew exactly whom to turn to.
One point of this article is that school staff have the opportunity to be “that person” for their students. One of the most positive developmental growth opportunities for students is the fact that they can have a meaningful and positive relationship with a significant adult in their life. Having that person is such a huge benefit to students who need a stable and caring influence in their lives.
A second point in the article focused on how school leadership and staff members can be intentional about building environments that are filled with mental health for their students. It not only is a purposeful way to teach and guide students, but it will enhance the learning environment of the school so that students can feel safer and healthier. This positive learning environment will advance the cause of effective teaching and learning.
Kudos to this school district, their Board, their Superintendent and their staff. What an exciting environment for students to learn, grow and develop into adulthood!