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New ‘Zen Den’ At Appleton East High School Gives Students Dedicated Space For Mental Health

School Partnered With Leadership Fox Cities In Response To Study Finding 12 Percent Of Students In Region Had Attempted Suicide In Past Year

School lockers
Brett Levin (CC-BY)

Students at Appleton East High School have a new space dedicated to practicing mindfulness and improving mental health called the “Zen Den.”

The room was constructed this year in response to recent research from the Fox Cities Life Study that found 12 percent of high schoolers in the Fox Cities region attempted suicide in the past year. The school partnered with Leadership Fox Cities, part of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce, to build the room.

The new Zen Den at Appleton East High School offers students a dedicated space to de-stress. Photo by Leadership Fox Cities and Miron Construction

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Appleton East Principal Matt Mineau said the room is an effort to create a space that fits the students’ needs.

“I think that’s a beautiful thing. As schools are progressing through history we have to continuously try to innovate and try new ideas to make spaces that really fit our kids,” he said.

Currently, the space is available on a need basis, Mineau said.

“A student would come down, and per the counselor recommendation they would say, ‘Hey, just take a breath and use the space for about 10 minutes,’” he said. “And after that 10 minutes was up, then we check in with them.”

If students are ready, they head back to class after, but if they need more time or to talk to a school counselor or social worker, they can, Mineau said.

Mineau said the room isn’t intended to replace seeing a school counselor, it’s an additional option for kids to have a moment to “take a breath and get themselves collected.”

Last year, the school had over 1,000 counselor visits, and hospitalizations among students increased by 15 percent, he said.

“We have 1,600 different stories and each are walking in with unique backgrounds,” Mineau said. “We’re trying to create safe places where they can get some … calm and just a chance to get themselves back to where they need to be.”

The room, which includes soft music, art, a plant wall and mindful coloring books, cost about $80,000 to construct — $60,000 of which came from in-kind donations from local contractors and organizations.

Mineau said he hopes the room offers students a place where they can feel comfortable.

“If we don’t have them in that arena, then it becomes extremely hard … when you actually get in the classroom and start trying to work through the learning itself,” he said.