It's been nearly 10 months since Hurricane Maria struck the small island of Puerto Rico. Still, the island continues to rebuild homes, schools, and hospitals that were destroyed. What may prove to be much more difficult to rebuild is the psychological and mental health of those that lived through it.

In a trip last month, University of Minnesota Medical School students Angelina Omodt-Lopez and Roberto Lopez Cervera, along with other University of Minnesota health professionals, saw the damage up-close when they traveled to a high school to connect with students and teachers. 

During a town hall-style event, they asked how they could continue to help provide care and aid. The team had initially planned to teach the students stress reduction techniques as they believed they were the most in need. Remarkably, the students urged the assistance be given to their teachers and parents who they believed were more needing of the help. 

“They understood that the teachers internalized their own needs and pressure in favor of putting up a good face for the students,” Angelina, who was moved by the gesture, told the Pioneer Press. “They understood that their teachers were trying to hold the whole world together, but no one was holding them together.”

After learning valuable information from the meeting, the team edited their grant proposal to reflect the students' wishes.

“We were initially thinking of using this intervention with the students at Lysander Borrero Terry High School, but based on reports of caregiver burnout and supporting comments from community members, we decided to help the adults first,” said Dr. Adnan Ahmed in an interview with the Pioneer Press.