School Board declares May “Mental Health Awareness Month”

OKEECHOBEE– The Okeechobee County School Board declared May “Mental Health Awareness Month” at their May 12 meeting.


The School Board met for the second time this year while utilizing social distancing and online video platforms. Board member Malissa Morgan attended the meeting virtually through the video conferencing application Zoom.


“Good mental health is a key component in a child’s healthy development,” began the statement read into record by superintendent of schools Ken Kenworthy. “It is important that youth, their families and communities learn about the warning signs of mental health disorders and where to obtain necessary assistance and services.”


Perhaps there’s no better time than now to put a spotlight on mental health, especially for teens. With social distancing guidelines in place many students around Okeechobee are missing out on many of the critical and forming experiences that those before took for granted.


Members of the Okeechobee School Board wear a green ribbon in support of Mental Health Awareness.

The Mayo Clinic published a list of self-care strategies to help anyone dealing with the anxiety that comes from all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.


First, be mindful about your physical health:


•Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Stick close to your typical schedule, even if you’re staying at home.
Participate in regular physical activity. Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Find an activity that includes movement, such as dance or exercise apps. Get outside in an area that makes it easy to maintain distance from people — as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) or your government — such as a nature trail or your own backyard.

•Eat healthy. Choose a well-balanced diet. Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. Limit caffeine as it can aggravate stress and anxiety.
Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs. If you smoke tobacco or if you vape, you’re already at higher risk of lung disease. Because COVID-19 affects the lungs, your risk increases even more. Using alcohol to try to cope can make matters worse and reduce your coping skills. Avoid taking drugs to cope, unless your doctor prescribed medications for you.


•Limit screen time. Turn off electronic devices for some time each day, including 30 minutes before bedtime. Make a conscious effort to spend less time in front of a screen — television, tablet, computer and phone.


•Relax and recharge. Set aside time for yourself. Even a few minutes of quiet time can be refreshing and help to quiet your mind and reduce anxiety. Many people benefit from practices such as deep breathing, tai chi, yoga or meditation. Soak in a bubble bath, listen to music, or read or listen to a book — whatever helps you relax. Select a technique that works for you and practice it regularly.

Take care of your mind by reducing stress triggers:

•Keep your regular routine. Maintaining a regular schedule is important to your mental health. In addition to sticking to a regular bedtime routine, keep consistent times for meals, bathing and getting dressed, work or study schedules, and exercise. Also set aside time for activities you enjoy. This predictability can make you feel more in control.


•Limit exposure to news media. Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. Limit social media that may expose you to rumors and false information. Also limit reading, hearing or watching other news, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations. Look for reliable sources such as the CDC and WHO.


•Stay busy. A distraction can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Enjoy hobbies that you can do at home, identify a new project or clean out that closet you promised you’d get to. Doing something positive to manage anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.

•Focus on positive thoughts. Choose to focus on the positive things in your life, instead of dwelling on how bad you feel. Consider starting each day by listing things you are thankful for. Maintain a sense of hope, work to accept changes as they occur and try to keep problems in perspective.


•Use your moral compass or spiritual life for support. If you draw strength from a belief system, it can bring you comfort during difficult times.

•Set priorities. Don’t become overwhelmed by creating a life-changing list of things to achieve while you’re home. Set reasonable goals each day and outline steps you can take to reach those goals. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. And recognize that some days will be better than others.


It also helps to stay connected with others. Even though you’re working or attending school online now, keep in touch with coworkers and classmates.
You can follow Okeechobee Children’s Mental Wellness on Facebook for more info at www.facebook.com/okeecmw/. The Okeechobee County School District’s mental health information can be found at http://okee.k12.fl.us/mental-health-information.

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