South Salem High School in Oregon created a “calm room” to help improve students’ mental health. The designated classroom opened in the fall of 2021.
School officials said the idea came about after they noticed a growing trend of students suffering from headaches and stomach aches.
They discovered the illnesses were symptoms of depression and anxiety. Rather than traditionally sending students home, the school gave the stressed students a 20-to-30-minute break, and they were able to return to class.
“Simultaneously, our student suicide prevention club, Saxon Strong conducted a schoolwide survey asking students to identify anything that would help improve their mental health,” Ryan Marshall, lead school counselor, told FOX Television Stations. “The overwhelming number one response from students was to add a student calm room.”
“We got creative, though, and used whatever space we could find as we weathered the pandemic and bond construction work,” he continued.
Marshall said the purpose of the room is “to offer students a school-based home for hope, wellness, and renewal.”
The room contains couches, bean bag chairs, rocking chairs and workspaces. Puzzles, games, cards and other activities are also provided. The room is supervised by a counseling support specialist.
School officials said the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on schools exacerbated the students’ mental well-being.
The stresses of the coronavirus pandemic have taken a toll on Americans of all ages, but a recent poll found that teens and young adults have faced some of the heaviest struggles as they come of age during a time of extreme turmoil.
Overall, more than a third of Americans ages 13 to 56 cite the pandemic as a major source of stress, and many say it has made certain parts of their lives harder.
The findings are consistent with what health and education experts are seeing. After months of remote schooling and limited social interaction, teens and young adults are reporting higher rates of depression and anxiety. Many are also coping with academic setbacks suffered during online schooling.
South Salem school leaders say they hope to bring the idea of a calm room to other nearby schools.