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With a mental health crisis unfolding, North Van students are learning about it in classrooms

November 23, 2017
​By Jesse Ferreras and Rumina Daya Global News

If you ask Sutherland Secondary student Graeme Halliday-Gunn, there was “barely any talk” of mental health except on the news when he was younger.

Flash forward a decade and the North Vancouver student is among the first B.C. teens to learn about mental health in a dedicated high school course.

Schools in North Vancouver and West Vancouver are putting Grade 9 students through a mental health literacy course that’s been developed by Dr. Stan Kutcher, a professor of psychiatry at Dalhousie University.

It covers issues such as suicide, bullying and the fentanyl crisis.

Students at this level are being taught about these subjects because 14 or 15 are the ages that see the most common onset of mental illness.

North Van and West Van are the only districts that offer this curriculum, and educators believe it’s an investment in the future.

“I think this course is part of the big picture of saving lives,” said Jeremy Church, a district principal with the North Vancouver School District.“I have no doubt that this will have a huge impact on people down the road.”

And the provincial government is looking at offering the course throughout B.C.

“Districts are doing things differently and we’re looking to bring in an additional layer of coordination to have a province-wide mental health strategy,” Education Minister Rob Fleming told Global News.

The course is making a difference for students like Will Nygard.

“People feel more comfortable around me,” he said. “Before they wouldn’t invite me to do things, but now they’re like, oh yeah, he’s just anxious."

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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