On the third floor of Ottumwa High School a Brain Health Retreat Room was created as a safe space for students and staff to prioritize their brain health needs. Brain health issues are on the rise and similar rooms are being developed in schools nationwide. Research reveals that access to brain health resources is one of America’s critical challenges. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 80% of U.S. students report feeling stressed sometimes or often, while 34% say they experience depression.
Through awareness and recognition of these concerns, Ottumwa Community School District and through the generosity of Debi and Andy Butler, have chosen to support brain health and open the Brain Health Retreat Room at Ottumwa High School. This room is the tenth space created in Iowa. Michelle Rocco, LISW, LCSW serves as the Brain Health Liaison at Ottumwa High School. Though there is a trained, qualified professional leading the room, this isn’t therapy, nor does it take the place of a therapist.
The goal of this space is to support Ottumwa High School students and staff by practicing brief self-regulation strategies that allow students to return to class ready to learn. While in the room, students will work on strategies to assist in social emotional regulation such as, breathing techniques, grounding techniques, problem solving skills, meditation or maybe just a quiet space to gather thoughts. Customized to OHS, this safe and welcoming environment is open to students and staff to support their brain health. This space also allows a connection to another positive adult to build a healthy relationship. The Brain Health Retreat Room is not a place to avoid class, a break room, or study hall, nor is it a place for friends to hang out together. It is not an in-school suspension center, a testing center, academic intervention, or therapy.
Students are asked to start with in-classroom strategies for self-regulation before requesting to access the Brain Health Room. They can then be referred in one of three ways: teacher or staff, student, or school counselor may refer them to the space. As long as a student is willing to practice a strategy and be respectful, they will be welcome into the space. The room is meant for quick breaks to reset and regulate feelings and challenging emotions. Once regulated, the student returns to class with a pass, or they may be referred to the school counselor's office for further individual support. The room is open for access during regular school hours.