CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte public charter school is focusing on students’ mental health and overall well-being heading into this school year.
David Cunningham, a professional school and college counselor at Queen City STEM School, is looking to add a "Calm Room" to the campus.
It will be a place where students can go to process their emotions and reset if they’re having a rough day.
"Hopefully it will be created to be like a safe place/self-care [space] that students can have," he said.
Cunningham said he noticed students struggling with anxiety and other emotions as they returned to school in person during the pandemic.
"The pandemic just, maybe [students] were discombobulated,” Cunningham said. “I mean they were just like, 'What is going on?' to now, they're kind of reset. They know school is important, and they're almost holding their breath like is something else going to happen, or 'are we going to be ok?'"
Cunningham started researching ways to help students process their feelings, deciding to turn an empty space into a Calm Room.
"With the pandemic, with the challenges that students face, being at school all day, oftentimes I don't think students just deliberately always want to get in trouble,” he said, “I just think some of the situations they have, it just may be -- hey, we all need self-care, right?"
He is hoping to add a couch, chairs, rug, lighting, stress-relieving balls, and more to the space to make it the right environment for students. He has already raised more than half of his $1,000 goal to pay for the space through a GoFundMe page.
Mental health is an area the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General is putting a focus on, calling it a crisis as the nation emerges from the pandemic and young people struggle with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
"All the things that are going on in the community that are distressing and causing stress for so many of us with the pandemic have been, you know, amplified for young people,” said Dr. Gary Maslow, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences with Duke University School of Medicine.
The Calm Room at Queen City STEM School is aiming to help students through this time and be a safe haven as they return to school in the fall.
"Once a person has a chance to reset and get their emotions in check, they can come out and be better,” Cunningham said. “Like, we all need a moment, don’t we?”