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

Agassiz study to look at drone use for pesticide application

The study will be the first in Canada to use drones to apply pesticides to farm fields

Lofty plans for Chilliwack school district revealed

Chilliwack school district draws up plan to add 2,900 student seats in five years

A+ work: Princeton RCMP find student’s homework stolen from Chilliwack

The backpack was stolen from a vehicle in Chilliwack earlier this week

Delays en route for Highway 7 in Harrison Mills

Road resurfacing will cause month-long delays for drivers travelling through Harrison Mills

The luckiest man in Agassiz finds more than 200 four-leaf clovers

Walt Hardinge has found more than 219 four-or-more leaf clovers this spring alone

VIDEO: Quadriplegic man takes flight over Harrison Mills

Jim Ryan hasn’t moved his arms or legs for three years, but that didn’t stop him from paragliding

Burnaby facility to dispose of 1,500 tonnes of Canada’s trash from Philippines

All 103 containers will be disposed of properly within Canada before the end of the summer

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

Man wants guilty plea revoked in 2012 collision in Abbotsford that killed Chilliwack woman

Michael Larocque was charged in relation to crash that killed Eileen Kleinfelder

High-risk sex offender released into Surrey

Earon Wayne Giles, a Newton “tag-team rapist,” was released from prison Friday and is now living in Surrey

Vancouver woman sexually assaulted after man follows her home; suspect at large

Police are looking for an Asian man in his 40s after the incident on Vancouver’s east side.

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

UPDATE: Vancouver man dies after crash between motorcycle, transport truck

Police believe speed was a factor in Thursday collision

Trial slated to start Monday for accused killer of Abbotsford cop

Oscar Arfmann faces first-degree murder for death of Const. John Davidson

Most Read