Getting to the heart of student stress
Published 7:45 am Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Between academic achievement, peer pressure and bullying, students today face a lot of stress.
Students at one local school are learning how to manage that stress in a healthy way.
On Tuesday, Happy Valley Middle School held a health fair as part of its “Red Ribbon Week.”
“It’s a week to celebrate making healthy choices for your body, one of those choices being to not use drugs or alcohol,” said Tiffany Herrick, school counselor at HVMS.
When you talk to kids about drug use, Herrick said, you also have to talk to them about stress and how to manage it.
“When kids start to feel overwhelmed, they may turn to drugs or alcohol to try to de-stress,” she said. “Kids have a lot of pressure on them these days.”
As part of the weeklong event, the school is hosting a poster contest in addition to the health fair and also featured different dress up days throughout the week. Herrick said Tuesday’s theme was “Fight the War On Drugs” and students were encouraged to wear camouflage clothing.
“We like to educate them but keep it fun,” she said.
To put the health fair together for students, HVMS teamed up with East Tennessee State University’s Rural and Community Health program, which is under the umbrella of Academic Health Sciences with Dr. Wilsie Bishop.
Several different information and activity areas were set up in the school gym for the health fair. Students learned about the effects stress can have on the body as well as the effects of using drugs and alcohol. Student were also given tips on how to reduce and manage their stress.
ETSU’s Dr. Anthony Delucia, who helped lead the team of faculty and students who put on the health fair, said stress on students can be tremendous and can affect their ability to learn and how they perform in school.
“They are under so much tension and pressure they feel at odds with everything — bullying, the internet, relationships, school pressures, parental issues and the list goes on and on,” he said, adding teaching children how to manage their stress in a healthy way is very important. “I think these are life lessons you can’t get early enough.”
Students on Tuesday learned about yoga and aromatherapy as two ways to help manage their stress and also received information to help keep them from turning to alcohol or drugs when they feel stressed.
One information station used preserved organs — a heart, liver and lungs — to show students what a normal organ is supposed to look like and what an organ damaged by drug or alcohol use looks like, Delucia said.
The students also had the opportunity to try on drunk goggles, which are specialized glasses which simulate how vision is distorted when a person is impaired by drugs or alcohol. While wearing the goggles, students were asked to drive a remote-controlled car or walk around traffic cones to see how their senses would be affected.
Those two stations — the drunk goggles and the organ damage display — were favorites among the children.
Sixth-grader Allie Grindstaff said the organ damage was her favorite part of the fair. “It told you what your lungs would look like if you smoked,” she said.
Grindstaff also said she really enjoyed the health fair as a whole.
“I like that they talked to us about stress and how to deal with stress,” she said.
Eli Ayers, also in the sixth grade, said the drunk goggles were his favorite part of the health fair, but the information on saying no to drugs was also important. “I liked the way it taught us about drugs and alcohol and what affects it has on your body,” he said.
Delucia said the program is all about helping these children learn to make healthy choices.
“We can make a difference and I think that is what this program is all about, making a difference,” he said. “We couldn’t do it without the partnership we have with the Carter County Health Council, the Health Department and the school system.”