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Mental Health Fair Gives Students a Chance to Just “Be”

Martlets took some time to recharge, revitalize and rest Jan. 25, during Westminster’s first Mental Health Fair. The program featured 35 different hourlong sessions for students to choose from, ranging from relaxing activities like yoga, crocheting and journaling to high energy shadow boxing, dodge ball and martial arts.
Students had opportunities to take a winter hike, join a pit fire circle, ice skate, visit the observatory, play math games and puzzles, and for those with a sweet tooth baking and ice cream cake making were hands-down the most popular options.
“You can work out your aggression,” joked Head of School Elaine White, who hosted the ice cream cake session in Pratt House. To create their cakes, students pummeled candy bars for cake toppings and smashed cookie crumbs into crusts.
The aim of the school’s mental health fair was to not only give students a break from their studies, but more importantly to help them learn new fun and healthy ways to reduce stress and unwind.
“We wanted the kids to have a day to play and just ‘be,’” said Amy Raskind, the health center’s mental health coordinator.
“The idea for the fair grew out of recognizing that students need nurturing in order to be the best versions of themselves,” she continued. We believe in the importance of supporting the whole child, which includes supporting their overall mental health and wellness.”
To prepare for the fair, the health center collected feedback and ideas from dozens of students and faculty alike, and the mental health club Bring Change 2 Mind and Wellness Club were also instrumental helping to organize the event, Raskind said.
Some students took the opportunity to challenge themselves by learning swing dancing and needlepoint, or practicing meditation and mindfulness.
In the Armour Academic Center, students fawned over the trio of visiting therapy dogs, and in Baxter Gallery, where a small petting zoo was set up, they held baby pigs and rabbits.
“It makes me feel super calm,” said Fifth Former Elizabeth Pruellage, who cradled a calico-colored baby rabbit in her arms.
In Cushing’s Fearn Hall, a group of students gathered near the fireplace were quietly coloring geometric shapes and mandalas. The session was led by Shana Russell, Jay Hay advisor, Chapel coordinator and associate director of college counseling, who explained that coloring books aren’t just for kids, adults can benefit from it, too.
“It is an activity that gives these students an opportunity to focus and be mindful of what is in front of them and not what is going on around them,” she explained.
Similarly, in Hinman Reading Room, physics teacher Amanda Rappold was showing students how to crochet.
“It is a process that requires you to be present, to listen and to participate in something with others… and not escape inside of your cellphone,” she said.

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