Local nonprofit emphasizing teachers’ mental health with new therapeutic breakrooms

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It’s not uncommon that we talk about the importance of students’ mental health, but very seldom do we hear anything about teachers’ well-being — but that’s why one nonprofit is looking to change that narrative in an innovative way.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the last year overwhelming, to say the least, for educators, and very rarely do they have anyone to turn to.

“I think teacher mental health is incredibly overlooked,” OpenMIND Mindfulness Educator Heidi Woods said.

While May is Mental Health Awareness Month, community leaders like Woods talk about the issue year-round as part of her position with the nonprofit, OpenMIND.

“I did a workshop here a couple years ago on teacher fatigue and burn out and we really just recognized that teachers give and give and give and what we want to do is give back to the teachers,” Woods said.

So, they did just that.

“The rooms are fairly new. They’ve only been implemented now for a couple of weeks,” she said.

What she’s referring to is the “Room To Breathe” spaces.

These two rooms are located right inside Washington Elementary in Minot.

“So we’ve set up a portal where the teacher can just take their cellphone, scan a QR Code, sign up for a time throughout the day,” Woods said.

The rooms are equipped with massage chairs, guided meditations, dim lighting and whatever else a teacher may need in order to step away from their busy day and simply relax.

“The room is really nice for teachers and educators because we feel a lot of conscious and unconscious stress,” Washington Elementary Speech Pathologist Andrea Landsiedel said.

“It’s been great to just go in the room and have just a couple minutes to just breathe, gather my thoughts, and then be my best self so that I can help students that are in need,” Washington Elementary Special Education teacher Kendra Neff said.

The Room To Breathe project is still in the early stages and Washington Elementary is the first in a pilot program.

“Knowing that this is a high burnout profession. We wanted to give our teachers a place where they could actually feel that they’re validated when they’re feeling that burnout,” Washington Elementary Principal Kendo Carlson said.

Woods says teaching is tied with nursing as having the highest stress rates compared to most other careers, so having this room in schools and far beyond, is critical.

“I think any place people experience high amounts of stress is an opportunity for this,” Woods said.

Woods says anyone can get these rooms implemented in their establishment.

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