Twelve percent of high school students in the Fox Cities Region attempted suicide in the past year, and at Appleton East High School, with student enrollment at approximately 1,500, more than 1,049 counselor office visits were documented and the school experienced a fifteen percent increase in mental health hospitalizations during the 2018-19 school year alone.
These staggering statistics were eye-opening for a group* of Leadership Fox Cities (a program of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce) participants this past year. Upon reviewing the Fox Cities Life Study, these individuals decided to focus their small group project on targeting mental health issues among student populations.
After learning from Appleton Area School District and the Appleton Education Foundation that there was a strong and urgent need to create a safe physical space inside Appleton East High School, where students could take time for a mental, emotional, or physical health break, these individuals set out to help create a space that would allow students the opportunity to relieve stress and mental fatigue. They partnered with school principals, guidance staff, the engineering services coordinator, and students to design a serene, warm, and welcoming space.
Highlights of the projected $80,000 space include:
- A green “living” wall that will provide privacy, in addition to other vegetation areas
- Comfortable seating area for students, parents, and guests
- Relocation of staff desks and the replacement of ceiling tile and grid (added sound absorption)
- New flooring with a more residential look as well a large, soft rug
- Freshly painted pale blue walls
- Projected calming images and soft music
- Sources of Strength (nationwide program / peer support group) wall graphic
- Coffee bar station
- Provision of mindful coloring books and games
“I can’t begin to explain the huge sense of gratitude I have for the Leadership Fox Cities group and their dedication to repurposing space within our school to create the Zen Den. Their commitment to looking out for those in our community who are suffering and struggling with mental health is admirable, and we are so thankful that they empowered our staff and students to be a part of the process. Needless to say, we are anxiously awaiting the opportunity for our students to reap the benefits the new space will provide,” says Matt Mineau, principal of Appleton East High School.
The group is expecting to fund the project with $60,000 of in-kind donations. Local contractors/organizations signed on to support the project include: Miron Construction Co., Inc., HJ Martin and Son, Inc., Suburban Electrical Engineers/Contractors, Inc., Appleton Lathing Corporation, Omni Glass & Paint, Discher Millwork, and ISG.
*Members of the 2019 Leadership Fox Cities class who stewarded this project toward fruition include:
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To learn more about mental health awareness, please visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net.