For those who missed Part 1, or are new to the community, or would like a quick refresher, here’s part 1:
Now that we’re all up to speed, I am happy to report back to the school community on how De La Salle will be moving forward in supporting the mental health of our students. This process has been an enlightening experience and one that I’m grateful to have been a part of. I would like to begin by thanking the committee members for their time, effort and support as we worked through developing the report. It was vital that we had representation from the various stakeholders in our school community, including the administration, parents, students and teachers. All of these groups agreed that supporting the mental health of our students needs to be a collective effort.
Parents: Ms. Bildfell, Ms. Wysocki
Students: Savannah La Selva, Matias Arko, Francesca De Tommaso
Teachers: Ms. Degroot, Mr. Lombardi, Ms. Carreco, Mr. Lue Tam
Administration: Mr. Voutsinos
Student Services: Ms. Williams
In June 2019, the committee submitted its recommendations to the administration. Since then, they have all been adopted, and we have already begun implementation. Our goal is to have all of the committee's recommendations acted upon by the end of the 2020 - 2021 school year.
The primary resource used by the committee was TeenMentalHealth.org. It provides evidence-based resources and consulting to schools so that they have the tools to support the mental health of their students. Through our work with them, we learned that one of the mistakes schools and other organizations often make, is starting at the crisis-intervention stage. As a school, our primary job is to educate; therefore, one of the best things we can do is to teach our students mental health literacy. This particular initiative will happen through a new education pathway, that will embed TeenMentalHealth.org curriculum into our current Grades 7 - 10 courses. For example, teaching students how to use correct language is crucial. Teaching them the difference between anxiety and stress or depression and sadness is essential. For example, they will learn to make the distinction between stress and sadness being regular a part of our lives versus depression or anxiety disorder requiring intervention. I think many of us are guilty of using the terms stress and anxiety interchangeably; it's crucial for students to know the difference. It's also important for students to know that stress doesn't have to be negative. The following TED talk helps demonstrate this, and it will be shared with our students next week when we present this information to them. We highly recommend everyone watch it. Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend
Throughout our work, we also learned that good mental health doesn't mean being happy all the time. On a conference call with TeenMentalHealth.org counsellor Andrew Baxter, he noted that the pursuit of happiness is killing us. Again, good mental health does not mean being happy all the time; good mental health is having good days and bad days and being able to bounce back. We need to stop framing everything around happiness. Instead of saying, "I just want my kids to be happy," we should be saying, "I want my kids to be resilient, and the only way to develop resilience is through facing challenging situations and sometimes feeling stressed." Life is challenging, and we want our students to be prepared for it.
If any parents are interested in learning more, one of the recommendations in our report was to promote the following free course to everyone in the school community: https://pdce.educ.ubc.ca/learn-mental-health-literacy/. It's an online, self-directed module that was developed by psychologists for teachers. However, the information is something from which everyone can benefit. We at De La Salle are committed to this important topic, and I am happy to report that all our teaching staff have completed the course.
The research is clear: 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness. While we won’t be starting at the crisis-intervention stage, we will continue to develop relationships with organizations that are equipped to offer assistance to those who may require it. We will do our best to remove barriers that prevent our students from accessing the help they may need. Through this support, the offering of a mental health literacy pathway, and following through with the recommendations of the committee, we are confident that our students will be well prepared to handle the rigours of life and be able to recognize and support those who struggle with mental illness.
Below you will find the report. Anything in green has been completed and anything in yellow is ongoing. As mentioned above, the goal is to have all recommendations implemented by the end of the 2020 - 2021 school year. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact the administration via the Main Office or Student Services.