Mental Health Awareness Month

As we conclude Mental Health Awareness Month, we look back with gratitude and admiration at the incredible activities organized by our dedicated School Social Workers, Mrs. Shelly Ashley and Mrs. Lori Leahy-Basso. Their efforts have brought a month of engagement, reflection, and wellness to our students and staff at Oneonta City School District. 
The month-long initiative began with morning announcements centered on mental health themes, providing daily inspiration and awareness right from the start of each day. Informational bulletin boards and valuable resources shared with families through ParentSquare further extended the reach of these efforts. 
Our school community has been deeply involved, with faculty meetings at OHS and OMS featuring discussions on mental health, reinforcing the importance of this topic among our educators. One of the standout events was the gardening activity held on the 22nd, organized by Mrs. Ashley as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. According to Ms. Emily Gibson, OHS Vice Principal, middle and high school students gathered in the courtyard to plant various seeds, including lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, and zinnias. "Students were excited to bring their container gardens home after the event," Ms. Gibson shared, noting that about 40 students participated.
The Rural Health Network grant funded the event, which covered the cost of materials, containers, and essential tools. "We still have another $500 to spend on plants for the container gardens. Next, we will purchase the plants and soil to fill the containers," Ms. Gibson added. This initiative symbolizes growth and resilience, bringing a new level of excitement to our school community.

Throughout the month, Mrs. Ashley and Mrs. Leahy-Basso diligently emailed videos and various activities to students, encouraging ongoing engagement and reflection. Each week featured a specific theme to guide our mental health journey: 
  • Mantra Mondays invited everyone to start their week with positive affirmations, setting a tone of self-compassion and motivation. 
  • Try-it Tuesdays encouraged exploring new activities as self-care practices, broadening our horizons, and discovering new passions. 
  • Wellness Wednesdays saw students and staff wearing green in support of mental health awareness and participating in activities promoting overall wellness. 
  • Thankful Thursdays provided a space for expressing gratitude and practicing mindfulness, helping us focus on the positives in our lives. 
  • Quote Day Fridays wrapped up the week by reflecting on inspirational quotes and engaging in activities that foster personal growth and resilience. 
Key activities this month included the self-hug and self-esteem gratitude exercises, where participants embraced themselves and recognized their self-worth. Body scan meditations and digital detox walks offered a break from the digital world, fostering mindfulness and a deeper connection with the present moment. Writing thank-you notes as part of connection gratitude strengthened our bonds with others. At the same time, reflections on resilience and vulnerability underscored the power of acknowledging our challenges and embracing our strengths. Purpose and choice mantras guided students to affirm their self-worth and resilience daily. Additionally, box breathing techniques and journaling provided simple yet effective methods for managing stress and documenting personal growth. 
Inspirational quotes from figures like Lili Rhinehart, Cara Delevingne, Matt Haig, and Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy punctuated these activities, offering words of wisdom and encouragement. Lili Rhinehart's poignant reminder, “Asking for help is the first step…you are more precious to this world than you’ll ever know,” resonated deeply with many. 
Mental Health Awareness Posters made by Oneonta students that hand proudly in the OHS main hallway.
While we also observed special holidays like Snow Day on May 23-24 and Memorial Day on May 27, the central focus remained on fostering a supportive and aware community. By emphasizing self-care, gratitude, connection, resilience, and purpose, Mrs. Ashley and Mrs. Leahy-Basso created a month filled with meaningful and enriching experiences aimed at enhancing the mental health and well-being of our entire school district. 
As the month comes to a close, we reflect on the positive impact these activities have had on our community. The tools and practices shared throughout the month have not only highlighted the importance of mental health but have also empowered our students and staff with strategies they can carry forward, cultivating a lasting culture of well-being and support.
Photos from the May 22nd Gardening Activity and the Mental Health Awareness Resource table set up all month for students to look at and take what they may need. 

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