TSD plans to host third annual Wellness Night Feb. 22

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

With mental health a hot topic in the news, Thompson School District (TSD) came up with a different kind of health fair focused on building resilience in schools and communities.

Representatives from TSD and several other agencies will provide free educational sessions on mental health and wellness topics 5-8:30 p.m. Feb. 22 during the third annual Wellness Night. This year’s theme for the resource fair is “Resilience: Riding the Wave,” with the aim to increase awareness about mental health and available community resources.

“It’s a free educational event where they can learn about different resources in our community and gain information on topics they might not be knowledgeable about or want to learn more about,” said Jessica Shiveley, school health professionals social worker for TSD and coordinator of Wellness Night.

Wellness Night, which will be at Loveland High School, 920 W. 29th St., will feature educational sessions for adults and secondary students on mental health and wellness topics pertaining to youth. There also will be a keynote speaker, dinner, and childcare on a first-come, first-serve basis. Last year 200 people attended the event.

“There’s a growing need for mental health and social-emotional wellness for our students and families in the community,” Shiveley said, adding that, nationwide, statistics show an increasing need for mental-health services without the stigma associated with seeking help.

Each year organizers pick a theme for Wellness Night, and resilience seemed fitting for this year’s event.

“It’s a common theme we’re seeing among our students that needs to be addressed.” Shiveley said, defining resilience as the ability “to rise above your situation, utilizing your strengths, so you can still make an impact.” “The more resilient (students) are, the more they can bounce back and be able to give back to the community and be part of the community as they are growing and getting older.”

Each year, before Wellness Night, district staff issues a survey to seek feedback from students, parents and the community about topics of interest to develop the educational sessions. The first set of sessions will be 5:30-6:15 p.m. Adults will be able to choose from five topics and youth from two topics. During the second set of sessions, 6:45-7:30 p.m., adults will be able to choose from four topics and youth from three topics.

The topics for the adult sessions will include anxiety and stress management, depression, handling social media, and communicating with teens. For the teens, the sessions will focus on mindfulness techniques to reduce stress, deciding when to stay or leave a relationship, and a brain break and physical activity.

“It helps build protective factors for youth in our community by learning about these different topics. Adults are more educated and aware of what’s going on with youth, so they can help support them,” Shiveley said. “Protective factors are conditions or strengths or resiliencies within an individual, family or community that help people deal more effectively with difficult, stressful events or situations that they might be coping with in life.”

The resource fair will be held before and after each session, with booths providing information about resources and organizations. There will be representatives from SummitStone Health Partners, Look Both Ways, and the Loveland Police Department Crisis Team.

The keynote speech will be 7:45-8:30 p.m., presented by Frank DeAngelis, retired principal of Columbine High School, who will speak on “Leadership Lessons from Columbine and Beyond.” DeAngelis will tell his story from the events of the school shooting and aftermath, and the leadership lessons he learned in the process. He will speak on developing resilience in his school community after the tragedy.

“He embodies the theme of resilience,” Shiveley said.