By Sammi Carpenter
Staff Writer

According to The American College Health Association, almost 9 in 10 students struggle with their mental health, and attendance has been decreasing because of how many mental health days students take.

Hutchinson High School made space of an unoccupied room and turned it into a calm room for students, naming it “Rusty’s Room”.

“We named our calm room ‘Rusty’s Room’, because the classroom we are using for it was Rusty Hilst’s classroom for 53 years. He taught math in this classroom,” said Jan Young, a social worker at Hutch High.

“This room wasn’t used a lot after Rusty stopped teaching, but everyone kept calling it Rusty’s room so we used that name for our calm room.”

Hilst is a retired math teacher who also broadcast Hutchinson High and Hutchinson Community College athletics on the radio for decades.

A calm room is a place where students can go to reset and take a mental break. Students may need a safe place to regulate their emotions when stress levels are at their highest and need to balance mental health and school.

“It’s not uncommon for schools to have a calm room space.” Young said.  “We just never had a space available for us. So we would do groups in the counseling center. We asked for a room for many years but finally Mr. (Ryan) Ewy (Hutch High’s Principal) said that he has a room for us.”

Rusty’s Room is located in Hutch High’s C-hall. The room has multiple chairs and couches, blankets, calming lights and music, noise canceling headphones, secluded areas, and a service dog named Coco.

“We want our students to learn self-regulation skills and learn coping skills that help them. They can write, color, stare at the bubble lights, put on noise canceling headphones, put on breathing exercises on our clear touch or they can just sit quietly and play with a fidget or read,” Young said.

Some guidelines in Rusty’s Room are:

  • Students must have a pass from their teacher
  • All students must sign in and out
  • Maintain confidentiality

Mental health has been a major topic the last couple of years. Thirty-five percent of students have been diagnosed with anxiety and 27% percent have been diagnosed with depression according to The American College Health Association. Dealing with anxiety and depression while in school can add on to the mental struggle students are already facing. 

“Coming back to school from Covid, there have just been so many unforeseen events and that has a part of mental health issues we have today. Another major thing is the society around us and social media. As those issues become more intense students need to find a way to keep themselves healthy. I would say we have more mental health issues than we ever had.” Young said.

Schools having a calm room can help students with their mental health. More ways students can balance school and their mental health is, first, by recognizing that their mental health matters. Students can tend to push aside their mental health to focus on school and they can not find a healthy balance between the two.

Asking for help with anything may not always come easy, especially asking for help with their mental state. By talking to a therapist/counselor or a trusted adult they can offer more ways or advice on dealing with mental health.

HutchCC provides multiple spaces for students to hang out, relax, or do homework but there is not a similar space where students can take a quick, quiet mental break.

HutchCC freshman and Hutch High graduate, Kailey Reed, speaks about the calm room.

“I wish Hutch High had a calm room when I was there. I probably wouldn’t have used it a lot but I know a lot of people who would have benefited from it,” said HutchCC freshman Kailey Reed, a Hutchinson High alumna. “I think HutchCC should have something like that. I feel like a bunch of people would use it, especially people that live in the dorms and people that do not have a lot of privacy.”


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