Chilliwack vice principal Jessica Adams-Loupret writes down ideas as 100 students brainstorm on youth mental health issues. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

Chilliwack students take the lead as mental health advocates

About 100 Chilliwack youth prepped to make a difference during Mental Health Week

There are nearly 100 new mental health advocates in Chilliwack today.

They’re motivated to help their peers, educate their families and ask for better services. And each one of those advocates is a high school student. Thirty students from each mainstream high school, and eight from the Education Centre spent Monday immersed in learning about advocacy for themselves and their peers. The school district’s Youth Mental Health Summit brought them together at the Tzeachten Hall, along with a handful of counsellors, administration and teachers from each school, and district senior staff.

By the end of the day, each student was armed with an action plan to take back to their schools. They will now be busy planning ways to educate staff, students and their parents during Mental Health Awareness Week in May.

Part of the day was facilitated by two Jack.org speakers, Taylor Montgomery and Dan Nixon. Wearing t-shirts that read ‘This is what a mental health advocate looks like,’ they asked the students to brainstorm the positive and negative influences on their mental health, in school and in the wider community, and what they wanted others to know about mental health. Then, they shared their thoughts with the room.

The problems they face run the gamut from “not enough youth workers,” to “people helping at you.”

“Feeling like a burden or raising a panic,” one student said, is a reason to not ask for help.

“I wish I knew what anxiety was earlier,” another one said. “I was going through it (in middle school) before I knew what it was.”

Long waits, doubtful parents, unbelieving teachers and school counsellors too busy with course-selection issues were brought up by many of the students. And who has time for help, when the day is filled with exams, studying, friends, a job, homework, sports and arts?

“It’s just another thing to do” in an already stressful day, one girl explained.

“How do we get help for kids who don’t even want to come to school anymore,” another one asked “or kids who don’t know how to ask for help?”

They spent the day volleying ideas around, but also came up with some concrete ideas to take back to school with them. One of the ideas is to start a Jack.org chapter, or several for the community. There are no chapters of the national organization anywhere in the Fraser Valley.

The issues facing students in Chilliwack are not unusual.

“They are saying the same things in every community in the country, and it’s all valid,” said Montgomery, who works out of Jack.org’s head office in Ontario. Her job is to travel around the country and speak to kids about mental health, encouraging them to become advocates for themselves and for their peers.

Their Jack Summits are youth-led and always designed to get kids not just thinking about mental health but acting in ways to educate people around them. The day included a talk from Chilliwack secondary vice-principal Jessica Adams-Loupret, who also was a counsellor in the past.

“We are going to leave here with concrete plans,” she told the students, adding that she understands “unless we address emotional well-being, you can’t learn. I’m super excited we are here.”

And she agreed that school staff can improve the way they relate to kids, and their modern struggles.

“This isn’t just about the students,” she said. “We need to get the message out to the parents and staff.”

Also on hand for the day was public health nurse Michelle Vandalee. She’s been working with the school district on mental health literacy. The school district has been in a partnership with Fraser Health since last June. When she heard about Jack Summits, the idea of being youth-led really struck her as a powerful way to promote mental health in the community.

“This is stigma shattering,” she said.

For more information on Mental Health Week, visit cmha.bc.ca.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Funding uncertain, but Agassiz’s Storytime in the Park will go on, organizer says

The literacy program takes place each summer in Agassiz, Harrison and Seabird Island

Hang gliding video gives stunning view of Harrison and Fraser river confluence

Aerial view shows striking difference between two rivers as they meet

The most h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s spelling bee you’ll ever see in Chilliwack

Secondary Characters Musical Theatre hits the stage with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

RCMP use helicopter and police dog to search for suspect on Sts’ailes First Nation

Man known to police fled an allegedly stolen vehicle and firearm on the reserve north of Chilliwack

Psychics, drones being used to search for missing Chilliwack woman with dementia

Volunteers pulling out all the stop to try to find Grace Baranyk, 86

VIDEO: Agassiz remembers local officer at grave-marking ceremony

Montague White-Fraser had been buried in the Old Cemetery for 92 years without a headstone

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

Cars keyed on BC Ferries after alarms bother dog on board

Delta police arrested one passenger on suspicion of mischief

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Two toddler siblings found drowned on First Nation in Alberta

The siblings were found drowned on their family’s property, according to RCMP

Chiefs honour Indigenous leader wrongfully hanged in B.C. 154 years ago today

Chief Joe Alphonse says they want his remains returned to his homeland in B.C.’s Cariboo region

Rare white ravens spotted again on Vancouver Island

Nature photographer Mike Yip said mysterious birds back in Coombs area

B.C. government seeks advice on reviving Interior forest industry

Public website opens as meetings start with community leaders

Most Read