Racine Unified makes sure students get mental health support they need: 'Mind, body and spirit'

RACINE -- For many of us, stress levels are at an all-time high due to the anxiety of being stuck at home along with the uncertainty of the future because of COVID-19. That holds especially true for students, whose routines have been completely changed.

Dr. Leah Featherstone's wellness office is a space meant for personal connection as part of mental health therapy. It is a job, like many, that is now much tougher during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The shift to virtual appointments was challenging," said Dr. Featherstone.

Featherstone directs the Professional Services Group clinic in Racine. She said the work to manage our mental health may be more important now than ever.

Dr. Leah Featherstone

"The resources that we normally use to manage our mental health, like social gatherings, girls nights, time apart, going to the gym and stuff -- we don't have access to those things anymore," Featherstone said.

That is why the Racine Unified School District, which partners with the clinic, increased access to mental health resources for students and families during this pandemic. They are utilizing telehealth for things like daily check-ins,  routine appointments, and even mental health exercises. They are all things students normally receive in the classroom.

"Until you can breathe on your own and take care of your own, you're not prepared to take care of anybody else. And so, we've really spent some time focusing on that," said Andrea Rittgers, Racine Unified Director of Student Services.

Andrea Rittgers

They also sharing coping strategies that all of us can use -- like eating healthier, getting a good night's sleep, and staying active.

Julie Hueller

"It's so easy to stay in our house, in our four walls. Take that walk. Do a family bike ride. Do those things that can be really helpful to your mind, body and spirit," said Julie Hueller, Racine Collaborative for Children's Mental Health.

To ensure we are mentally ready for whatever comes next, Racine Unified is also rolling out a new mental health program specifically for faculty and staff -- to make sure they are getting the resources they need as well.