Come in, unplug, and recharge. This is the unofficial motto of Mercy’s new Wellness Center which was created this year as a “safe space” for students to escape stresses of the day and give them a chance to recalibrate themselves.
“The Wellness Center is available for students to come and unplug and it’s a safe space for them to reset and prepare for what’s next in their day,” said Elizabeth Heuser, Mercy’s Director of Wellness. “It’s a quiet place and students are learning to detach from their electronic devices and from the anxieties and stresses of school and other expectations that are just with them all the time."
For the past three years, Ms. Heuser has served as a school counselor before being tasked with launching Mercy’s Wellness program this year. During those years, the counseling team discovered that students have separate academic and emotional needs and it became apparent that by creating the Wellness program and Wellness Center, students could receive specialized care in each of those areas. Ms. Heuser said it can be difficult for a counselor to “have tough discussions with a student about grades and then ask them to share their feelings.”
“We’ve decided to do what a lot of schools are doing which is separate mental health and academics but we took it a step further by adding the preventative education of social emotional learning programming,” Ms. Heuser said. “Now, rather than being very reactive to crises that are going on, we are actually being able to teach the students and the school as a whole about mental health and well-being and to have a place where they can come and take care of themselves, where they can learn self-care, self-regulation, meditation, and mindfulness.”
Ms. Heuser said the Wellness Center is available to students during free period, lunch, and any time during the school day they “might feel overwhelmed and need to find a quiet space.” It’s also a cell phone and device free zone. Once a week during morning announcements, students are participating in a moment of mindfulness, gaining techniques to relax and focus through guided breath work and centering exercises.
“This is a proactive educational model that empowers our students, parents, and the whole community to get what they need and to be healthy, to be balanced, and deal with the day which seems to be so much harder now,” Ms. Heuser said. “Our world produces a lot of anxieties and to have this safe space is already showing results because students are happier knowing that there is this devoted space for them to relax and be free.”