Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month and as a high school librarian, I have seen my fair share of stressed out teens. How can we help our students alleviate anxiety and stress? While we cannot take the place of trained and certified therapists, we can offer a listening ear or a word of support and encouragement. We can also provide some tools and comfort for promoting good mental health.

Here are five simple ideas for promoting and augmenting mental health. Each is implementable through library programming or makerspace activities.

Stress Balls – Sometimes you just need to squeeze and squish something. Follow directions for hydrating Magic Beadz. Instead of a bowl, use a water bottle, this will make the straining and pouring beads into a balloon easier. Place beads in a balloon and tie a knot at the top. Start squishing! Alternatives to Beadz: use rice, beans or play dough. Some instructions call for flour. If (ahem, when) the balloon breaks, the mess is of astronomical proportions.


Positive Pencils (link) – Everyone needs a reminder. You are strong! You are brave! You’ve got this! Positive affirmations can increase feelings of self-worth. Research shows us that thoughts have a direct impact on emotions and feelings. So, make them positive!

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Social Robots (link) – Hasbro’s Joy for All companion pets can provide comfort to students in school without having to deal with allergies or vet bills. This is great alternative to live animal pet therapy programs.
companion-pet.pngJournaling – Write down thoughts, dreams, and questions in a daily journal you create for yourself. Using Modge-Podge craft glue and images cut from upcycled magazines, cover a marble or spiral notebook for a creative personalized journal. Journaling can help you manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression, among other benefits.
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Jump Ropes (link) – Daily exercise is good for overall health, both physical and mental. Even just a little activity is beneficial. Make these upcycled plastic (plarn) jump ropes as a fun way to exercise.

Also, check out this resource – 12 Resources to Help You Address Mental Health in Schools.

Stay healthy! Stay strong!

Social Robots

Robots & Us: Can Robots make us feel better?

My husband has been hospitalized for the past 8 months. In the course of that time we’ve had our fair share of mechanical interventions. From ventilators to feeding delivery systems, programmed machines have improved our quality of life.

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Nate’s Get Well Bot is a ‘robot’ designed (albeit, by a 3 year old) to make Uncle Alan feel better. Worked like a charm!

This got me thinking. Can robots make us ‘feel better’?

I’ve been on the look out for other ways robots can make us feel better – not medically but more along the lines of social-emotional well-being.

Companion Robots

We’ve experienced multiple therapy dogs over our stay and recently a therapy bunny. Many of these service animals only visit on certain days and depending on the unit (for example, the respiratory care unit) they may be banned. What to do when you need or want a companion, but don’t have access to a live, furry critter? Companion robots.

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Hasbro Joy for All (https://joyforall.hasbro.com/en-us) –  is “designed to bring comfort, companionship and fun to elder loved ones. With realistic fur and pet-like sounds – and sensors that respond to petting and hugs with familiar pet-like actions – Companion Pets deliver a soothing, joyful experience that inspire smiles, laughter and fond memories for people of all ages.” We own the silver cat and he (Bingo) spends his days with my husband. Not only does Bingo provide comfort and companionship to my wheelchair bound husband, he also brings joy and comfort to me. Best of all no vet appointments, clean ups or allergy attacks!

I think this product would make a great addition to our other stress reducing activities and plan to purchase one for our school library.

BUDDY (http://www.bluefrogrobotics.com/en/buddy/) – “is the revolutionary companion robot that improves your everyday life. Open source and easy to use, BUDDY connects, protects, and interacts with each member of your family. Not content with being just a companion, BUDDY is also democratizing robotics. BUDDY is built on an open-source technology platform making it easy for global developers to build applications.”

There are other “social robots” such as Jibo (https://www.jibo.com/) and Pepper (https://www.ald.softbankrobotics.com/en/robots/pepper). I’m more partial to the furry robots than the humanoid robots.

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I was fortunate to meet Dr. Julienne Greer, a senior lecturer at UT Arlington, while attending the Texas Library Association Conference (2018) in Dallas. She had several robots with her and she explained her work with the theatre arts department in relation to the computer science department. Fascinating work being performed across the country. If you want to read more about Dr. Greer and her work in the emerging field of social robotics and human-robotic interaction (HRI), check out this article: Why we want our robots to like us. In the future, I think we’re going to being hearing a lot more on the topic of human interactions with emotional robots. I can’t wait!