Mental health break

Natalie Selensky, News Writer

With the number of mental health issues in teens rising, schools around the nation scramble for a solution. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health challenges among youth have skyrocketed. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there was a 40% increase in the number of high schoolers who reported feeling persistent sadness, making it more than one in three students. The pandemic also added more challenges for students that disrupted lives and possibly left kids in vulnerable situations at home. These numbers left parents, administrators and teachers asking: What can they do to address these mental health concerns? Xavier took on the challenge of addressing students’ mental health by implementing several activities and projects. First, Xavier’s Campus Ministry organized a nine-day novena prayer to Saint Dymphna, the patron saint of mental health, during the month of March. A novena prayer is a nine day prayer said once a day, that asks for divine intervention from whoever is being prayed to. It was the first yearXavier participated in a school- wide novena for mental health and Father Richmond Dzekoe composed the prayer for the students himself. According to Campus Ministry, they received good feedback from participants. It is expected that the practice will turn into a tradition next year as well. Xavier administrators and Student Services also implemented the Xhale room in order to address mental health concerns in students. The space was created for students having a hard time who need a place to prepare themselves to re-enter the classroom. School Counselor Mrs. Katie Hamilton worked on implementing Xhale at Xavier. “We recognize that there are some mental health concerns and stress, so kids just sometimes need a place to break,” Hamilton said. New Xavier staff member MissEmily Hein was hired to help develop the room and make it into what it currently is by incorporating comfortable furniture, peaceful sounds and fidgets toys to make the space into a calm setting. She believes that the Xhale room is an important place to have in a school setting for students. “You do not know what someone walks through in a day. You might have a student who cannot focus on school work for various reasons but cannot skip school. Having a space like this is really beneficial to make sure students have a safe environment to reset themselves and get those emotions out,” Hein said. Hein also said those who have used the room have utilized it for a good purpose. Xavier administrators have made it clear that they prioritize their students’ well-being. It can be expected that Xavier will continue to make efforts to check in on students regarding mental health.