‘Peace of Thoughts’ initiative offers psychological well being help in Catholic colleges

Catholic school teachers, principals and support staff from all twin cities attended a training session on Tuesday that focused on mental health and wellbeing.

MENDOTA, Minnesota – Workers at Catholic schools in the greater Twin Cities area gathered Tuesday to prepare for the upcoming school year. But the training did not focus on academics. Instead, it was about mental health and wellbeing.

“When a child walks through a classroom, you can tell in the first few seconds what that child’s morning was like. It’s really unfortunate to think that this kid might have had a rough morning when they were dealing with something and we’re going to ditch this kid. We have to be aware that not everyone is in this place all times of the day, “said Brian Ragatz, President of the Competence Center for Catholic Schools (CSCOE).

Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, the non-profit organization launched the “Peace of Mind” initiative for mental health. The aim is to help not only students but also parents and school staff overcome struggles and improve mental health and wellbeing both inside and outside the classroom.

CSCOE is funding the initiative free of charge for schools.

The pandemic has sparked further discussions about the mental health of the students.

“It affects children in so many different ways. They have … greatly increased anxiety; they worry about their families; they worry about their health; they are exposed to problems and questions.” that children are usually not faced with a serious illness. They lost people in their lives, “said Sarah Lilja, elementary school counselor at the Mary School presentation in Maplewood.

“It’s really a groundbreaking idea to bring this curriculum into Catholic schools. Every school should do this and it is really phenomenal and almost moving for me to see CSCOE providing the funding and support to make this possible, ”Lilja said.

The program works with the Phoenix School of Counseling to support 78 Catholic schools or approximately 21,000 students and their families from preschool through 8th grade.

On Tuesday around 100 employees from 10 Catholic schools took part in the Peace of Mind 2.0 training in St. Peter’s Church in Mendota. Dr. Jules Nolan of the Phoenix School of Counseling and CSCOE led the training on managing anxiety and mental health in childhood.

“I wanted to do this training so that not only my teachers understand what social emotional learning (SEL) is. I have my administrative assistant from the office here, my support manager, my supervisor because all these adults keep touching children’s lives on a daily basis, “said Dawn Biren, headmistress of St. Dominic School in Northfield.

Biren said that last year they only focused on helping staff learn more about SEL. Now they are ready to offer this support to their students.

“Social emotional learning, many Catholic schools say we raise the whole child. Mind, body and soul. This is a way to help our children with the mind part of it, ”said Biren.

SEL helps children work on everything from managing their emotions to maintaining positive relationships.

“From the first person the child sees in a day to the last person, everyone plays a role in that child’s development and it is important that we are all trained, especially in these challenging times,” said Ragatz.

Tuesday’s training is just the beginning. There will also be zoom calls and possibly face-to-face sessions for parents, as well as programs like retreats for students.

The teachers are supervised throughout the school year. The Peace of Mind 2.0 initiative also provides schools with a professional school advisor one more day per week.

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