The Importance of Mental Health Education in Schools

Early social and emotional development lay the foundation for resiliency throughout the lifespan. However, 70% of adults with mental illness see symptoms emerge in childhood and adolescence.

Some facts you should know…

• Mental illness affects approximately 1.2 million youth in Canada.
• By age 25, that number increases to 7.5 million (1 in 5 Canadians).
• The current generation of youth are experiencing the highest rates of mental health issues ever seen.
• Marginalized youth experience even higher rates of mental health concerns due to the intersection of several factors including violence, and poverty.

Mental health challenges are often pervasive, impacting many developmental outcomes. Poor mental health can have several detrimental effects on children and youth. Not only can it impact academic performance and success, but it may also interfere with social relationships and physical health.

Children who suffer from mental illnesses are at greater risk for adult onset physical health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. They are also more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. There is no health without mental health. That is, if our youth are not mentally well, they will not be physically well and their ability to positively impact our society will be impaired. Despite an increase in the availability of mental health resources such as counselling and various treatment options, rates of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression continue to rise.

What can we do about this mental health crisis?

The solution lies, in part, in our schools.

To ensure optimum growth and development, mental health education needs to begin during early school years. During this time children form their first friendships and teenagers are shaping their self-worth and self-esteem. Growing up, youth are faced with a host of challenges including exclusion, bullying, conflict, and poor self esteem. It is important that we acknowledge and equip children with the tools needed to manage these challenges. In a combined effort between mental health professionals, parents and teachers, students’ mental health can be greatly improved, thus setting the stage for a healthier and happier future.

Some of the main reasons we, at the Stigma-Free Society advocate so hard to bring mental health education into the school are for the following reasons:

1) A primary goal of mental health education is to increase awareness. This involves teaching children what mental health means, and how to maintain positive mental health. It is vital that youth understand the concept of self-care and that they are responsible for their own mental health. In addition, emphasis should be placed on the idea that mental health is an integral part of overall health and well-being.

2) Another goal of mental health education is also to teach children, parents, and teachers how to recognize mental health related issues in themselves and others. When mental health problems are left undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms and negatively affect a child’s ability to grow and learn. Along with an increased understanding of the importance of mental health, children should be provided with strategies and tools to cope with mental health challenges.

3) Early intervention of mental health issues can also make a world of a difference. Small changes in behavior and thinking often occur before major mental illness appears. These early warning signs can be noticed by teachers, family, friends, and the individuals themselves, but only if they know what to look for. Some of these signs are mood changes, nervousness, withdrawal, and a decrease in academic performance. Early intervention can reduce the severity of the mental illness. It may also delay or even prevent the development of a major mental illness.

4) Mental health awareness can save lives. This issue of suicide and self-harm among teenagers is quite alarming. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 15 – 24. Bringing awareness to the symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses can help teens identify these issues and seek help before it is too late. By including education on mental health and information on how and where to access help, school can quite literally save lives.

5) Education can help serve to eliminate stigma. Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets an individual apart. These people are defined by their illness and associated to a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes toward stereotyped groups can lead to feelings of blame, shame, hopelessness, and distress. By educating our youth about mental illness, we begin to normalize mental illness conversations and the stigma surrounding it begins to dissipate.

In conclusion, the prevalence of mental illness in youth is increasing with each generation and we, as a society, have a responsibility to protect our children as best as we can.

Mental health education in schools can significantly impact students current and future mental health. It can also contribute to eliminating stigma and foster resiliency through the awareness of mental health. The benefits of this type of education is insurmountable.
Schools have the ability to promote positive mental health by building self-confidence and self-esteem. It is essential that children are taught about the importance of mental health, how to recognize signs of poor mental health, and how to seek out assistance for any mental health challenges.

By talking about mental health, we can promote greater acceptance and understanding which will in turn increase help-seeking behavior.
Mental health education in schools is extremely valuable as it can positively impact the lives of our children and youth. Please connect with us if you’re interested in bringing some mental health education to your school or classroom.

We’re happy to help you start the conversation.

Author, Cosette Leblanc, Intern, Stigma-Free Society

The Stigma-Free Society Supports You this Coming Fall and Always

Summer is ending and Fall is definitely in the air and our team at the Stigma-Free Society is feeling a little humbled, nostalgic and thankful.

We are all living through a global pandemic and no one knows what is to come next, but for now, we want to take a moment to wish all of the students heading back to school the best of luck in the coming year. What lies ahead is unknown, but we can take care of ourselves and one another through kindness, support and compassion.

Over the past few months, we’ve been busy adding content to our Covid-19 Youth Mental Wellness Toolkit and we are creating NEW Student Toolkits this Fall for schools. It’s an exciting time for us and we couldn’t have done it without your incredible support – online and financially. We are not a large Charity, but we have a very committed and supportive Stigma-Free community and for this we are very thankful.

We have been constantly adding content to our COVID-19 Toolkit over this past summer, so be sure to check out our new Features section on the website for both Youth (Grades 4-6) and Teens (Grades 7-12). You’ll also find a whole bunch of Tips for Managing Mental Health – something we ALL need to be doing, especially when we are feeling stressed, confused or anxious.

We’ve also received some valuable feedback on our Covid-19 Comic called Ben’s Story, so we’re working on adding additional comic books for our youth readers to enjoy. These educational pieces will illustrate topics such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, diverse-ability and a variety of stigmas.

We cannot wait for you to read all of them! They’re going to be educational, but also unique and fun!

We have many more updates for you, but mostly, we really want to say that we are grateful to you all, and we are honoured to hold this mental wellness space with you. We wish you all health, happiness and joy as you start this new school year.

We’ll be here in a different capacity this year without our in-person mental health presentations, but we’ll be here continuing to educate and raising awareness around mental health and a variety of other stigmas in an online capacity with new tools and resources.

We’re extremely excited for the upcoming year and look forward to working with you all.

Again, we are here for you and we support you at the Stigma-Free Society.

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

Mental Well-Being and Our Canadian Farmers

“I wonder how the farmers’ mental well-being is today, this week, this month, or this year?”

Has this thought ever crossed your mind? Read more

5 Ways to Boost your Mental Health in 35 Minutes or Less

Let’s face it – some days you just feel crummy.

Whether you had a terrible sleep, you’re stressed out or you just woke up in a negative mood – bad moods and negative mental health days happen.

The good news?

There are quite a few ways you can positively impact your mood and put yourself in a better, more positive state of mental health.

Even better? You can bump your mental health into a more positive space in a short amount of time.

TRY THIS!

Move your body. You don’t need to move your body for a prolonged period of time – even just a 5-minute energy boost can bump your mental health.Set a timer for 5-minutes. Press start. Complete 20 high knees, 20 squats and 20 jumping jacks on repeat until your 5-minute timer indicates your time is up. Then, grab some water, give yourself a high five and let the endorphins work
their magic.
= 5 mins

Drink some water. Hydration is extremely important on days when you’re feeling sluggish or blue. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, irritability, lightheadedness and inability to focus. Drinking 1L of water over the course of 30 minutes will help combat dehydration and the negative effects it has on your mental health.
= 5 mins to drink 1L

Pro-tip: Try to drink 3-4L of water per day to stay on top of your hydration!

Get outside into the sun. Taking yourself outside and into the sun has many mental health benefits including reducing stress and improving cognitive function. The sun also helps anchor your body’s internal clock, regulating healthy appetite, sleep and your
metabolism – all key factors in maintaining a positive state of mental health.
= 10 mins

Eat a nutritious meal. Put the sugar away and grab yourself a healthy snack because sugar negatively impacts brain health and healthy food positively impacts brain health! Try a salad full of vibrant vegetables with some protein (e.g. chicken, tofu or fish) and a sugar-free salad dressing. Then, let the vitamins and nutrients work their magic on your mental health.
= 10 mins

Call someone you love and trust. Sometimes all we need is a little connection with someone who makes us laugh and feel good. Reach out to a friend or family member and talk about the fun you’ve had in the past. Reminiscing about good times filled with fun and joy can significantly boost your mood.
= 5 mins

TOTAL TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOU?

35 mins!

…and some of these things you can do together like sitting outside in the sun while talking to your loved one.

Bad moods or negative mental health days happen, but there is a lot you can do to try to boost yourself into a more positive mindset.

We have a Mental Health Checklist that you can print off and go through on days when your mental health is not as positive as you’d like it to be on our COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit.

Finally, for more ideas on how to manage your mental health, please CLICK HERE and check out our 10 Tips for Managing Your Mental Health.

Thank you for reading!

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

Apply Today for a $2000 Stigma-Free Scholarship for Post-Secondary Students

The Stigma-Free Society is extremely proud to announce that we are once again partnering with Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance to offer TWO deserving post-secondary students a $2000 scholarship to be allocated toward their educational pursuits.

This is the third year that the Society has been able to provide these amazing scholarships and it is because of our valuable relationship with Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance. We are proud of the work each recipient has completed over the past few years in the area of educating themselves on how to help eradicate stigma through awareness and education.

Scholarships will be awarded to two students, who have experienced or are currently experiencing the effects of stigma because of mental illness, LGBTQ2+, homelessness, race or addictions issues. Additional related experiences will also be considered.

Criteria to apply:

  • Be a current Resident of British Columbia, Canada;
  • Must have dealt with, or are currently dealing with the effects of stigma in their life;
  • Complete an application form with Cover Letter for the Society’s review;
  • The Society hopes to feature each student’s story on their website and anonymity is also permitted if preferred;
  • Must be accepted and registered at an accredited educational institution for the Spring 2021 Semester.

The Stigma-Free Society works to raise awareness and mental health education to students, parents and educators on how to help stop stigma. We provide space for those who have been on the receiving end of stigma and offer support, understanding and acceptance.

Applications are now closed.

Thank you.

Thank you to the Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance for your generosity as these scholarships would not be possible without your financial contribution.

 

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

The Stigma-Free Society is Growing, Expanding & Looking for Feedback!

What a ride it’s been since March 2020 with COVID-19 and all the things that come along with living through a pandemic!

Stigma free online toolkitBefore COVID-19, much of the work of the Stigma-Free Society was conducted through in-person presentations at schools and organizations where we would educate youth and teens about mental health awareness, the elimination of stigmas and how to live a stigma-free life. As COVID-19 became more rampant and with the closure of schools and an unknown future, our charity needed to pivot and ensure we were able to continue to promote our important messages.

Our team quickly rallied and with the support of our Board of Directors, we were able to create our COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit in a matter of 15 days. The Youth Toolkit has sections for both youth (grades 4-6), teens (grade 7-12) and based on feedback from our community, sections were added for parents and educators.

While less-restrictive COVID-19 restrictions are still in place, our team continues to work hard at adding content to this Toolkit on a weekly basis.

We’ve also realized over the past few months that there are a number of other areas that need our attention and support….and here is where we need you!

We would truly appreciate your feedback on the current Stigma-Free COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit so we can continue to add content, education and ensure we are capturing the needs of our community.

In addition to the COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit, we are working on the following online resources:

Stigma-Free Youth Mental Wellness Toolkit

This toolkit will be similar in structure to our COVID-19 Toolkit, but will have more general information on mental health, mental illness, activities to stave off boredom and conversation cards to help adults and youth/teens keep communication open – always, not only during a pandemic. Basically, this is a revamp of the COVID-19 Toolkit to ensure that the content is still available to the public once we get through this pandemic and will be especially useful for Educators wanting to teach on the topic of mental health.

Rural Mental Wellness Toolkit

This particular Toolkit is being created for people living in rural, farming and countryside communities. We have been advised that life in a rural community has a number of challenges and information and education to individuals living in these communities is desired and needed. We are also working with professional peer support trainers, and hope to bring this component into fruition for these communities.

ALL of the above new resources require plenty of content creation, organization and research. We are asking for feedback, suggestions and input on all of the above resources, including the already launched Stigma-Free COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit.

  • Have ideas? We want to hear them.
  • Have suggestions? Great! Pass ‘em over.
  • Are we missing something? Let us know!
  • Know someone who is an awesome writer and wants to volunteer? Amazing! Send them our way.
  • Is there an area we’re missing? We want to know about it.

Your feedback is incredibly important to us and we 100% are open to hear it. Please send any and all feedback, suggestions and/or ideas our way. You can email your feedback to [email protected] and we will be in touch very soon!

Thank you for your interest and support.

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

We Reached our $20k Goal! THANK YOU!

A Warm and Grateful Message from the Stigma-Free Society Team…

We had an INCREDIBLE week last week with our first ever online fundraiser “”Helping Stigma-Free Society During COVID-19”. Through the generous support of the beautiful community around us, we reached our goal of $20,000 and we couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who donated and who participated in our event.

Throughout the day we had interviews and information sessions about stigma, mental health, how COVID-19 is affecting us and, of course, information on our online COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit.

Donations came in throughout the day and with every donation our confidence grew. Not only did our confidence grow in being able to achieve our financial goal we had set for ourselves, but also in the work that we do as a charity. With every donation, people were not only supporting us financially, they were also letting us know that they appreciate and believe in the work we do, encouraging us to continue to grow and expand.

Our work is important and will continue during these unprecedented times – this message was heard loud and clear from all who supported, and continue to support us.

What are we going to do with the donations? Great question. Below are just a few ways we’ll be allocating the donations within our charity:

  • Convert the Stigma-Free COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit into a General Wellness Toolkit;
  • Add new sections to our General Wellness Toolkit, including  “Defeating Racism during COVID-19” and “How to Help a Friend with Mental Health Issues”;
  • Create and develop new resources such as an Online Distress quiz and a comprehensive Guide for Parents on helping their child struggling with mental health;
  • Sustaining the significant cost of the Youth Toolkit program;
  • Write, create and develop new initiatives such a Wellbeing Toolkits for various other demographics that will reach an even larger audience and will help us branch out from our focus on youth;
  • And SO MUCH MORE.

Once again, thank you to those who took time out of their busy schedules to be a part of our online fundraiser. Thank you to those who supported us with messages, comments and emails throughout the day. And THANK YOU to the many, many people who donated before, during and after the fundraiser to Stigma-Free Society.

A special thank you to those who donated on behalf of Jaime Traynor. Our deepest love, gratitude and appreciation to you and your loved ones. We will honour Jaime’s memory with our good work and promise to continue to help educate and raise awareness on various stigmas, with a focus on mental health. Jaime – we miss you and love you.

THANK YOU STIGMA-FREE COMMUNITY!

We are beyond grateful.

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

Special Guest Blogger – Jenica Pong: On COVID-19 as a Student and Taking Virtual Action!

It was a huge change not returning in class after spring break. With the weight of the pandemic sinking in I began to understand how this would affect the rest of my year: no band concert, no year end dance show, no school carnival; I wouldn’t be playing Pomp and Circumstance or get to watch my friends a year older graduate. Looking back, these events seem minuscule compared to what became the huge scope of COVID-19, but this was the first time I had ever gone without these year end markings.

Beyond listening to new music and taking walks, it was apparent that through quarantine getting back into activities virtually was important. After a week of initial shock, I was extremely grateful to see how quickly teachers, classmates, and my peers were adapting. (Although this is my experience, COVID-19 has changed our “normal” and I know this isn’t the reality for many people who aren’t privileged with this time, health, technology, and capacity to have so many opportunities virtually!). To the dismay of my family and neighbours, my 3 hour tap class was moved entirely online through Zoom. We were able to adapt our show into video versions. I’m so proud that together we still completed the project despite never seeing each other in person.

In terms of remote learning, my mom is a high school teacher and seeing the behind the scenes of what teachers were doing to make the transition online easier was amazing (shoutout to my Mom!! Hi!!). My school ran through teams and we’d have video calls once a week, then we got assignments from each teacher. Sometimes keeping track of everything was difficult but I was in a rhythm by the end with an online agenda.

Some of the coolest things I got to be a part of was youth led initiatives as everything transitioned online. Yes, teenagers are quick to learn new programs, but both our Burnaby Mountain Student Council and the youth climate strike group Sustainabiliteens worked with impressive efficiency in virtual meetings. For Council, my friend Natasha and I spearheaded taking spirit weeks online, posting photo and song challenges on our instagram. Sustainabiliteens were right in the middle of creating new regional groups all over BC and I got to be a part of intake online. They utilized Slack channels, calls with breakout rooms for discussion, and interactive presentations. It has been so interesting to be organizing with people from all over the province that I have never met in person.

Despite all these wonderful opportunities there’s one challenge that’s becoming clear after almost 3 months of virtual existence… how much I miss being able to meet new people face to face, properly shake their hands, and make conversation! We have been consistently doing check-ins during calls, but nothing replaces the laughs and energy of being side by side. I know that focusing on the big picture helps: that us meeting virtually and our efforts are a small step towards this huge climb where we WILL be able to see each other again (possibly still without handshakes and loads more sanitizer).

In my experience, physical isolation does not mean you have to stop being socially connected or taking action, with the right mindset the uncomfortable or abnormal may become (excuse the cliche) the new normal. My time in quarantine has given me so many lessons about collaborating without seeing your group in person and the value of being with others, which we often take for granted.

Author, Jenica Pong

Stigma-Free COVID-19 Online Full-Day Fundraiser – We Need Your Help!

At the Stigma-Free Society we are extremely proud of the work we have been doing to educate and raise awareness about various stigmas, with a focus on mental health in schools, businesses and organizations. When COVID-19 hit, the way we educate and help students and individuals in the community had to change. We responded urgently and are aiming to remain adaptable to change the way we work, and we did so urgently by tirelessly designing, developing, and releasing our Stigma-Free Youth Wellness Toolkit for youth (grades 4-6) and teens (grades 7-12).

The Toolkit was designed for youth and teens’ learnings about mental wellness, and it has become an invaluable resource for parents, educators and counsellors to help them navigate conversations about COVID-19, mental health and provide resources and ideas to keep children and students engaged in a positive way.

Unfortunately, along with COVID-19 came quite a bit of funding barriers and significant losses to our Charity and we need your help.

We have huge plans in place to continue to support our Stigma-Free community in new and unique ways that include creating an interactive guide for parents navigating the mental health system, designing a Rural Mental Wellness Tookit and a Mental Health Toolkit for Indigenous communities.

On June 24, 2020 we are having a day-long Online Marathon Fundraising event on Facebook LIVE!

Please join us throughout the day and donate what you can. We need your support now more than ever.

We are seeking 1000 people to give $20, or whatever they wish on, or before June 24th, 2020!

To donate to our charity on and before, June 24th, donate through this LINK.

We also have guest celebrity 4-Time Olympian Silken Lauman, Author of Unsinkable and Founder of Unsinkable Stories!

We would love your support on June 24th and cannot wait for you to watch the incredible interviews we will be hosting. You will also receive loads of information and support throughout each segment on helping your children and/or students during, not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also throughout their lives.

Please join us and support our charity on June 24th! It’s going to be an amazing day filled with information, interviews and fun.

The Full Line-Up for the day can be found on the Stigma-Free Society’s Facebook Event Page.

Remember, you don’t have to attend the whole day, but do drop by for whatever 30 min. segment interests you, or come over and post your hello!

Thank you so much for your continued support!

 

Written by, Lindsay Goulet, CDM, Stigma-Free Society

10 Ways to Boost Your Mental Health on a Rainy Day

A lot of people love a good rainy day. It’s a great excuse to hunker down under your blankets and stay inside for the day. However, for some, rainy days can be really difficult, particularly if they’re battling a mental illness like depression or anxiety.

The good news? There are ways for you to boost your mental health on these dark and dreary days! Below are 10 ways that you can boost your mood while the sky remains grey and the rain continues to fall.

      • Get some rest. Rainy days are the perfect day for you to rest and perhaps catch up on some sleep that your body and mind may desperately need. Resting and napping are not for the “lazy”, they’re for the people who need to take a break and are willing to take care of their mind and body through sleep and restorative practices.
      • Curb your desire to bring on the junk food. Eating well is an important way to help maintain and boost your mental health for the day. Sugary snacks don’t fuel your brain. Your brain needs vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates. Put the chips and chocolate away and grab an apple and some almonds to snack on.
      • Drink your water. Similar to #2, it’s also important to put away the sugary drinks and fill up your water bottle to hydrate yourself properly throughout the day. Shoot for at least 3L of water per day, but of course, just try your best.
      • Get outside. Yes, it’s rainy. Yes, the sun isn’t out. But yes, you can still get outside for a nice 30-minute walk. Grab your umbrella and get your body moving. Rain jackets are made for this type of activity, so get up and get walking.
      • Limit your screen time. While it might be tempting to snuggle under your blankets and catch up on all things Facebook or binge-watch a new show, it’s best if you limit your screen time. Best to recommend no more than 2 hours per day.In fact, researchers in an article by Twenge & Campbell, 2018 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6214874/) found the well-being was negatively impacted after 1 hour of screen time. Anything over 1 hour resulted in progressive feelings of negative well-being. We’re being a little more lenient with our recommendation of no more than 2 hours per day because if you’re going to watch a movie, you’re going to need more than an hour!
      • Phone a friend. Rainy days are a great chance to reach out to friends or family you haven’t had time to speak with in awhile. Grab your phone and reach out to connect! The connection, laughter and joy of reconnecting will help boost your mental health for the day. There are a lot of at-home workouts you can do. On top of getting outside and going for a walk, complete a short, metabolic workout. This type of workout is known for releasing endorphins and serotonin – both chemicals knows to be mood enhancers. Not sure what to do? CLICK HERE for a great at-home, no equipment workout.
      • Write in a gratitude journal. Sometimes it’s difficult to pull yourself out of feeling blue, but gratitude often helps. Sit down with a pen and paper and write 20 things you are grateful for. Once you’ve listed your gratitude, read the list at least twice (three times is even better) and reflect on each item on your list.
      • Get yourself a Sun Lamp! Vitamin D is important in helping boost your mood. If you’re feeling particularly blue, tired, stressed one day and the sun is hiding behind grey clouds, get yourself in front of a Vitamin D lamp. Try to also make sure you’re getting Vitamin D into your body through food – good sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon, vitamin-D fortified foods like orange juice or dairy, cheese and egg yolk.
      • Be productive. While the desire may be to sleep the day away (and that’s okay sometimes), why not use the day to cross off something you’ve been meaning to do? Organize your closet, read a book you’ve been meaning to read, plan your garden for the spring/summer. Whatever you’ve had on your to-do list – get it done! It feels great to cross off those things you’ve been putting off! So go one – tackle one thing on your to-do list and reap the mood-boosting reward.

There are so many ways to take care of your mental health on rainy days! Try to embrace the grey and rain and take care of yourself on days you know you tend to go a little darker or days when you feel more anxious. Your mental health is in your hands – try your best to help ensure you’re as healthy as you can be.

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS