The Columbine tragedy, also known as the Columbine High School massacre, was a school shooting that occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, United States. The perpetrators, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, killed 12 students and one teacher, and injured over 20 others before taking their own lives.The violence came to an end when the perpetrators took their own lives in the library. To this day it remains one of the worst school shootings in United States history.
The tragedy had a profound impact on the community and the nation as a whole, sparking debates and discussions about American culture, gun violence, school safety, mental health, and other related issues. The victims’ families, friends, and the survivors have worked to honor the memories of those lost, and to advocate for positive change in the aftermath of the tragedy.
It is difficult to say that any good came out of such a senseless act of violence. However, in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy, there were some positive developments and initiatives that emerged, including:
Increased awareness of school safety: The Columbine shooting brought attention to the issue of school safety and led to increased efforts to improve security measures in schools across the country. Many schools implemented lockdown procedures, metal detectors, and other measures to protect students and staff.
Improved emergency response: The response to the shooting highlighted the need for improved emergency response plans. This led to the development of the Incident Command System (ICS) by the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to provide a standardized response to emergency situations.
Mental health awareness: The tragedy also brought attention to the issue of mental health and the need for early intervention and support. Following the shooting, mental health services were expanded in the community, and initiatives were launched to promote mental health awareness and education.
Legacy of the victims: The families and friends of the victims have worked tirelessly to honor their memories and to advocate for positive change. The Rachel’s Challenge program was established in memory of Rachel Scott, one of the victims, to promote kindness, compassion, hope, and connection in schools and communities.
While the positive outcomes of the tragedy do not outweigh the loss of life and the pain suffered by the victims and their families, they do represent some efforts to prevent similar incidents in the future and to promote positive change in society.
by Kelly Campman, RC FOR Club Director
Mindfulness Meditation: Practicing mindfulness meditation can help reduce stress, improve focus and concentration, and promote a sense of calm. Teachers can take a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness meditation, either on their own or with the help of a guided meditation app.
Physical Exercise: Engaging in regular physical exercise can help improve mental health, reduce stress, and increase energy levels. Teachers can take advantage of the summer break to try new exercise routines, such as yoga or hiking, or to simply enjoy a daily walk or bike ride.
Creative Writing: Writing can be a therapeutic activity that helps teachers process their thoughts and emotions. Teachers can use a journal to reflect on their experiences, or try creative writing exercises, such as poetry or short stories, as a way to express themselves.
Reading: Reading for pleasure can be a relaxing activity that helps teachers unwind and escape from the stresses of work. Teachers can make a list of books they want to read over the summer and set aside time each day to read.
Learning New Skills: Learning new skills can be a fun and rewarding way to boost mental fitness. Teachers can explore new hobbies, take online courses, or learn a new language during the summer break.
Connecting with Friends and Family: Maintaining social connections with friends and family can help improve mental health and reduce stress. Teachers can use the summer break to reconnect with loved ones, plan social activities, or join local clubs or organizations to meet new people.
by Kelly Campman, FOR Club Director
Setting goals is better than making resolutions because goals are more relevant and action specific to your life. Resolutions often seem forced as a “traditional” way to start the new year. According to Forbes, nearly 80% of people admitted to abandoning their New Year’s resolutions by February every year. Resolutions are the outcome of what you want to accomplish by setting specific, planned out goals.
Below are some tips to help you as you pursue your goals.
Commit to Making a Change – Step Number 1!
Journal It – Set long-term and short term goals…make sure some of them are achievable.You are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.
Be Specific About Your Purpose – Why do you want to do what you are planning to do?
Take Action – Just do it!
Track Your Progress – Write notes about your progress, your successes, and your challenges.
Keep Moving Forward – Even if you stumble; monitor, adjust, reset, but don’t give up.
Celebrate Your Successes Often…large and small!
by Kelly Campman, FOR Club Director
1. SLEEP! Sleep late, take naps, and sleep some more!
2. Take “Alone Time”… press the pause button… avoid public places…cherish the peace and quiet.
3. Wear jammies or your favorite sweatpants all day.
4. Binge watch your favorite shows, surf Pinterest, or shop online just for yourself.
5. Catch up on the little things that you haven’t had time to address while school was in session.
Gratitude Activities for Staff & Students
by Kelly Campman, FOR Club Director
1. Create a “Gratitude Book.”
Keep this in a common area. Encourage staff and students to write a specific statement of gratitude each week. Choose a statement to share each week.
2. Encourage students and staff to write in “Gratitude Journals.”
Write down detailed things that make life worth living in at least 5 sentences.
3. Provide “Gratitude Prompts” for students each day and for staff prior to staff meetings.
Make time to share.
I’m grateful for my friendship with…because…
I’m grateful for my family…because…
Three things that I’m grateful for at my house…
Three things I’m grateful that I am able to do…
4. Write and Personally Deliver “Gratitude Letters.”
Take the time to let the people in your life know that you are thankful/grateful for them.
5. Develop and Model an “Attitude of Gratitude.”
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.“
– William Arthur Ward
6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Mental Health
by Kelly Campman
1. Have an Attitude of Gratitude.
Take a few minutes each day to write down things you are grateful for in your life in a Gratitude Journal. Showing gratitude has been proven to reduce stress and adjust your attitude.
2. Get Some Exercise.
Thirty or more minutes of exercise 3 or more times a week is proven to improve depression and anxiety. But, don’t stress about it…10-15 minutes can also make a difference in your mental well-being. Baby steps!
3. Eat Well.
Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, as well as foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon. Carrots, dark leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce, cucumber, apples, bananas, grapefruit, other citrus fruits, fresh berries, and kiwi are all associated with better mental health.
4. Sleep Well.
Turn off your cell phone, TV, or computer an hour prior to sleep. Try to get at least 7-8 hours each night. Good rest can give you more energy and improve your mental health.
5. Service to Others.
Donate your time to a homeless shelter, retirement community, food kitchen, or animal shelter. Volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. Service to others provides a sense of meaningfulness, which can have a stress-reducing effect.
6. Be Kind to Your Mind.
Mindfulness activities such asmeditation and yoga can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit your emotional well-being, maintain your inner peace and improve your overall health.
Mental Health and Wellness
May is Mental Health Awareness month, and providing for our own mental health and wellness is one of the most important things we can do. Teaching is one of the most stressful occupations in the United States. The constant outpouring of energy that educators exert everyday can lead to burnout. The additional toll on mental health brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years has exacerbated the issue. That is why we at Rachel’s Challenge have put together this resource list to help you take better care of yourself so you can best support your students when they need it.
We can all be overwhelmed by our emotions at times. Often what seems like the easy thing to do is to try to avoid those feelings in whatever way possible, hoping they’ll just go away. However, when we are unable to process our emotions we can act out or react in a negative way, or the feelings can overwhelm us. That can lead to reacting with an “acute stress response,” which is the way the body rapidly responds when one feels threatened in order to decrease, end, or evade the immediate danger to return to a state of calm and control.
These acute stress responses are more commonly known as fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Most of us are familiar with the “fight,” “flight,” and “freeze” responses, but “fawn” may be a new one you haven’t heard before. To “fawn” means to immediately act to try to please to avoid any conflict in a situation. People may often use this response after unsuccessfully trying fight, flight, or freeze. If you find yourself more concerned with making someone happy who has treated you poorly than you are concerned with taking care of yourself, you may be one who utilizes this response.
Below are some strategies and tools to help you deal with negative emotions so you can better understand yourself on a deeper level, as well as make it easier to connect and support others, especially your students, when they need it. Please note that Rachel’s Challenge has no direct affiliation with any of the recommendations listed below, but we hope to provide a wide range of options for everyone to find something that they can relate and connect with the most.
Strategies to Support Mental Health and Wellness
Mindfulness is a powerful tool to help bring us into the present moment. It involves quieting our minds to bring attention and awareness to present thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in order to help us accept those same thoughts and feelings without being overwhelmed by them or what’s going on around us. By tuning into what we are sensing in the present moment, we get ourselves out of the rut of worrying or ruminating about the past or having anxiety about the future. It can also increase empathy and compassion for others around us, improving our relationships and developing a sense of connectedness. So, when you practice being kind to your mind in the present moment, you’re not only connecting with yourself more, you’re connecting with others more which leads to a more fulfilling life.
Here are some apps that can assist you in your mindfulness practice:
2. Breathing Exercises
Have you ever noticed how you breathe when you feel relaxed? The next time you are relaxed, take a moment to notice how your body feels. Or think about how you breathe when you first wake up in the morning or just before you fall asleep. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress and anxiety in the body. When you breathe deeply a message is sent to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Certain bodily responses that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate and fast breathing, decrease as you breathe deeply to relax. The way you breathe affects your whole body. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress and anxiety – and they’re easy to learn. You can do them whenever you want, and you don’t need any special tools or equipment to do them. You can try different exercises to see which work best for you.
Here are a few exercises you can try right away:
Belly Breathing(also known as Abdominal or Diaphragmatic Breathing)
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down.
Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, below the ribcage, allowing you to feel the rise and fall of your diaphragm.
Breathe in slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach press into your hand, while keeping the hand on your chest as still as possible.
Exhale slowly through slightly pursed lips.
Repeat for 3-5 minutes, or as long as you’d like.
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down.
Inhale for four counts.
Hold the air in your lungs for four counts
Exhale for four counts.
Hold at the end of the exhale for four counts.
Repeat for as long as you’d like.
Sit in a comfortable position with your neck and shoulders relaxed.
With your mouth closed, inhale through your nose for two seconds.
Exhale through your mouth for four seconds, pursing or puckering your lips as if you were giving a kiss.
Repeat as many times as you’d like, keeping your breath slow and steady throughout.
Have you ever experienced a situation where your emotions go from 0 – 100 in what seems like the blink of an eye? Probably so. Sometimes when this happens our emotional reactions can make the situation worse. STOPP, TIPP, and the 54321 Grounding Method are all quick and easy tools you can use in the moment to help calm your emotions.
STOPP is a powerful technique that helps you take a moment to notice the feelings going on inside you before reacting to them. It can help you reframe your thoughts and perspective in a situation and not allow your emotions to get the best of you. Watch this short video to see how it works.
TIPP is another technique to help you stop emotional distress in its tracks by taking control of your body’s physiological response and using your body’s chemistry to help change your thoughts. TIPP stands for Temperature, Intense Exercise, Paced-Breathing, and Paired-Muscle Relaxation. Learn the technique below.
The 54321 Grounding Method uses your five senses to help ground you in the present moment.
Look for 5 things you can see.
Become aware of 4 things you can touch.
Acknowledge 3 things you can hear.
Notice 2 things you can smell.
Recognize 1 thing you can taste.
Journaling is a great way to help you unload and untangle thoughts and feelings. By writing down your thoughts and feelings you can become more aware of your interior world, helping you solve problems and process traumatic events. Journaling helps reduce stress and anxiety, improves immune function, keeps your memory sharp, boosts your mood, and strengthens your emotional functions by presenting an opportunity for emotional catharsis and providing a greater sense of confidence and self-identity. Writing by hand also has benefits: it’s scientifically shown to be good for your brain and your mental health – it reduces stress and anxiety, boosts creativity, improves your memory, enhances your focus, and more! So much of the writing we do in life is for an outside audience, such as work or school assignments and social media posts. So remember, when it comes to a journal, you’re writing for YOU!
Gratitude is an excellent way to boost your mood and increase your feelings of happiness. It can also improve your physical health, self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, and open doors to help deepen connections with other people. Keeping a gratitude journal, sending a thank you note to someone, or acknowledging someone with a verbal thank you can improve your well-being – so don’t forget to say thank you!
7.Move Your Body
When stress affects the brain, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. So, it makes sense that if your body feels better, your mind will too. Physical activity produces endorphins – those chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers – and help improve your mood and concentration, relieve stress, alleviate anxiety and depression, improve sleep, and boost your confidence and self-esteem. Almost any form of exercise or movement works – walking, running, dancing, cycling, yoga, weightlifting, swimming, going for a hike in nature, and playing sports. Find what you love to do that gets your body moving!
Apps to Support Mental Health and Wellness
Developed by clinical psychologists in close collaboration with leading researchers for those who want to learn about emotional well-being or who suffer from mild-to-moderate mental illness including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and eating disorders.
Developed by leading scientists and experts who’ve been studying evidence-based interventions in the fields of positive psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy, Happify brings you effective tools and programs to help you take control of your feelings and thoughts.
Moodfit provides a comprehensive set of customizable tools to help you learn and focus on what most affects your mood, including daily goals and self care, mood and gratitude journals, mindfulness and breathing exercises, and more!
Started by a black woman and half-Japanese woman who didn’t see themselves and their experiences reflected in mainstream wellness. Their bodies, skin color, financial access, and past traumas often felt otherized. This inclusive self-care kit includes daily meditations, a mood tracker, gratitude log, and self-care courses.
The purpose of the “Safe Place” is to bring more awareness, education, and hope to minority mental health. Not only can the black community benefit from this app, but also mental health professionals, friends, and family, of ALL colors can be better educated on this issue. All races go through mental illness, but we also can experience it differently because of our race and social backgrounds.
Podcasts to Support Mental Health and Wellness
Host Kristen Trumpey, who has a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology, wanted to create an accessible podcast that took the high-level scientific journals on the subject and put them in a context that makes sense, allowing listeners to explore a variety of positive solutions and pick something that works for them. It’s about understanding the science behind gratitude journals, dancing in your kitchen, and all the small things that make the good life, well, good.
Based on years of scientific research, The Happiness Lab is about what makes us happy. Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos takes on the misconceptions about what happiness is and shares inspiring stories that make you reflect on what happiness means to you.
From the creators of the Shine App, a podcast about how to take care of your mental health while at work.
Best selling author and wellness blogger Ty Alexander explores ways to take care of yourself and help you become the best you.
With over 20 years studying what brings meaning and purpose to our lives, Brene Brown has learned this, “We are hardwired for connection, and connection requires courage, vulnerability, and conversation.” Listen to conversations that explore how we can connect on a deeper level.
Licensed psychologist Joy Harden Bradford chats about mental health and personal development to help you become the best version of yourself.