INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — The COVID-19 pandemic has really put a spotlight on mental health, not just for adults but also for children. To address that issue within their own school district, Independence Primary School organized a special day for students to decompress and learn healthy ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression.
“We want to give our students resources and tools to help if they're having mental anxiety or you know, any type of depression or just need something, someone or to talk to, and get through it,” said T. J. Ebert, the principal of Independence Primary School.
Ebert said he, the school’s parent teacher organization, city officials and others have met monthly since last summer to put the school’s first ever Mental Wellness Day together.
All day Friday, students spent time at four different stations, including sensory exploration, yoga meditation, and healthy eating.
“I welled up with tears watching those kids take their deep breaths and focus on their bodies and their minds and loving themselves,” said Katie Hill, a parent and the president of the Independence Primary School Parent Teacher Organization.
Students in third and fourth grade got a special treat and were able to spend time petting, brushing, and feeding donkeys and a miniature horse from equine therapy nonprofit Hope Meadows.
“We're allowing the kids an opportunity to really focus on mindfulness, rounding, calming themselves, and when we're around horses, they do that for us naturally,” said Michelle Togliatti, the executive director and co-founder of Hope Meadows. “And the third and fourth graders are at such a formidable age where they can really learn these skills. They can process them, they can relate to them, and then they can take them and use them and apply them.”
Organizers say kids need this kind of a breather especially right now having to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and being exposed to different societal pressures.
“I think it's extraordinarily important that we address it, especially at this young age to help them cope as they move on to middle school in high school and into adulthood,” said Hill.
Now, they’ll have what they need to approach mental health obstacles.
“If they're feeling down...they can do some breathing techniques, they can do some yoga, they can, they can have a sensory break, mindful coloring, they can do things to help themselves and get through maybe something they're having difficulty with,” said Ebert.
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