RSD Counseling Department hope Mental Health Resource site provides support for students


Makayla Archambeault

On the Rockwood website, Lafayette High School how has a tab for Social & Emotional/Mental Health Resources with different links to pages with access points for hotlines, reasources and exercises to help learn more about mental health. The resources can also be ultilized in a crisis situation during any time of the day.

Makayla Archambeault, Editor-in-Chief

On the Lafayette High School (LHS) website, under the “Students” tab, there is now an additional page available for students called “Social & Emotional/Mental Health Resources”. The page is available for students day or night.

The page has different links to sources including hotlines, resources for parents, students and families, the Rockwood Social Emotional Learning (SEL) website, substance abuse resources, seasonal mood changes, avoiding relapse during social isolation, LHS counselors’ contact information and a Virtual Calm Space.

Rockwood Coordinator of School Counseling Todd Minichiello had a group of students reach out to him to create this page for a project they were working on. They wanted to create a place where all the resources already available were put together in one place in order to help the greatest number of people find it easily.

From there, Minichiello worked with Rockwood Technology Department and the students to set up meetings with groups of students and administrators from different schools to find a way to compile resources into a user-friendly site to be readily available and confidential.

“Everybody kind of brainstormed what it would need, what it should look like and how best to present it. It was great to work with students because instead of making something and seeing if students will use it, they made it and we know students will use it because they were speaking for themselves,” Minichiello said. “We really got a good mix of kids looking at it and helping, so we’re very confident that this will be student-friendly.”

He also has worked to ensure that the page stays up-to-date with current and reliable resources.

“I call [the page] evolving, we will add resources and help where we see kids need it. Mental wellness is becoming much more acceptable to seek help and that is part of this project. We want students, families and parents to know that it’s just like breaking a leg or having the flu, you shouldn’t hide it, it’s okay, everybody goes through it. We’re trying to normalize everybody concentrating on their wellness, safety,  mindfulness and calmness,” Minichiello said.

One specific aspect of the page that has been utilized by counselors, in particular, is the Virtual Calm Space.

LHS Counselor Nicole Buesse said, “I think it can do a lot to help and support students especially in the times that maybe a counselor or another emotional support isn’t available. We’re all aware that crises don’t typically take place during school hours and so it’s nice that this can be accessed at any time, day or night. It always takes a lot of courage to walk through the doors and sit down and bare your soul to someone, there are times that even that seems so overwhelming, that a student doesn’t do it. So knowing that they can just click on a website and have access so quickly to everything from the Virtual Calm Space to different hotlines that they could reach out to if they don’t want it to be school-related.”

Rockwood Social Emotional Specialist Regina Whittington helped to develop the Virtual Calm Space to be a resource for students. 

“I had to learn about Google sites and WeVideo and figure out processes to create my own content (for the mindfulness/meditation page). I also spent time reviewing other videos to see what would make sense to include on the various pages. I was able to incorporate resources from our SEL site that Taylor Decker had created when the pandemic started and build on that too,” Whittington said.

When developing the site, she was focused on finding a way to reach out and help students in the midst of the pandemic.

“There were a lot of challenges with reaching students and connecting with them as the pandemic continued in the fall.  We (the whole social work team) were all constantly looking for resources and sharing ideas about things that could help reduce the barriers to support and create connection,” Whittington said. “One of the social workers had shared a similar site of a virtual calm space and I instantly thought that was a great idea to replicate for our own district. The space allows for students to explore at their own pace and really experience what helps them the most.”

She also works to continue to keep the Virtual Calm Space updated as she finds more resources.

“If someone shares a video that I think could be helpful or I find a new resource, I bookmark it to add to the site.  I also seek out ideas from students and staff on things they are finding useful and/or inspirational,” she said. “My hope is that the site can be a resource for students to explore ideas and consider what may work for them and encourage them to practice the strategies that work best for them.  I also hope it can spark more interest and understanding of all the aspects of social and emotional health and ultimately reduce barriers to mental health support.”

LHS counselors have also utilized the page, especially the Virtual Calm Space, to help students by adding a link to the signature of their emails in addition to using referring students to it.

“Some kids that have come down here in a moment of crisis and either they weren’t ready to talk or maybe they were done talking but they still needed some time to decompress, we pulled up the Calm Space and let them go through that and see what speaks to them on that page. It does have a lot of things, from different music and meditation to some coloring apps and just things that might speak to a different person at a different time,” Buesse said.

Buesse also believes the site is a great resource in terms of having a space with many different reliable resources for a time of crisis.

“When I saw it, I was grateful because it pulled together a lot of resources and put them all in one place for easy access. All of that information is out there on the internet already, but if you’re in crisis, the last thing you want to do is Googling and trying to find out what is legitimate and what will be helpful. To be able to direct someone to a single space that has so many different types of relaxation and calm and centering exercises is tremendous,” she said.