LAMALINE, NL – Students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 at St. Joseph’s Academy in Lamaline took part in their school’s first Mental Health Awareness Day Nov. 6.
Organizers Heather Cull and Kia Power explained the ultimate objective of the day was to raise awareness of mental health issues and the many resources available to deal with them.
“We hope that today will be a kick off for the rest of the year in our school,” said Cull. “Each month, we are going to have different events and activities geared towards mental health awareness and mental health issues.”
Cull said it’s important “to create a safe and inclusive environment in our school on an ongoing basis – safe and caring for everyone throughout the year.”
Students were involved in the planning process, said Power.
"We took curriculum outcomes from our health books and asked the students what issues they wanted to narrow in on,” she said. “They brought up those heavy ones that we tend to stay away from.”
Students selected topics like suicide and suicide prevention, and alcoholism and drug abuse.
Meghan Francis, founder of the Francis Project named after the loss of her father and brother to suicide, presented on raising awareness of suicide prevention and breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Pat and Sarah Brake discussed their struggle with alcoholism and how to cope with that disease.
Students also enjoyed presentations by Rhonda Scott and Lisa Sheppard on dancing, yoga and relaxation, and their importance to emotional and mental health.
Jeff Moulton, a youth outreach worker with Eastern Health, outlined the supports available to help young people live happy and healthy lives and make good choices.
Students at all levels felt the day was beneficial.
"This has been a really good day,” said Grade 12 student Danah Dodge. “Meghan Francis did an excellent presentation about what happened in her family with the suicide of her father and brother. We learned how to respond if we knew anyone we suspected of having thoughts of suicide.”
Grade 3 student Hilda Cake said she learned about some of the things her class had discussed in health class.
"We are learning about feelings – happy and angry feelings and how to deal with them,” she said.