/ North Shore News
Grade 9 students at North Vancouver's Sutherland Secondary took part in a
two-day conference this week to help them learn about mental health and
mental illness. The conference is part of a new mental health program
being taught to all Grade 9 students in North and West Vancouver
schools. Left to right are Sutherland students Evan Helwig, Blake Tower,
Coel Davies, Hannah Cook, Jay Till and Cassidy Kingdon. photo Mike
Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes has had it. So has pop star Lady Gaga and soccer player David Beckham.
That such successful and famous people have struggled with mental
illness might be news to many teens. But dispelling the myths around
mental illness is part of the message being taught to Grade 9 students
across the North Shore as part of a new mental health curriculum.
In North Vancouver, the topic of mental health was up for discussion
April 23 to 25 as Grade 9 students took part in a two-and-a-half-day
mental health literacy conference at Sutherland Secondary.
Teaching kids what’s normal stress and anxiety, and what could
signal a deeper problem is an important part of the program, said Jeremy
Church, principal at Mountainside Secondary who helped launch the North
Shore program two years ago.
“There’s a certain amount of stress that’s good for youth to
experience,” says Church. Anxiety and sadness can be a normal part of
life. “It might take you some time to get over but it doesn’t mean you
have a mental illness,” said Church.
The program teaches teens techniques – everything from mindfulness
to just going for a walk - to calm themselves down, get perspective and
“get back in charge of your brain,” says Church.
They’re also taught to spot more worrying symptoms – when teens stop
taking part in activities they used to enjoy or withdraw from spending
time with their friends.
Dr. Stan Kutcher of Dalhousie University developed the program,
designed to give students practical and realistic information and combat
the stigma around mental illness.
This is the second year schools on the North Shore have offered the mental health curriculum, the first program of its kind for public schools in the province.
Both Sutherland and Rockridge host conferences for their Grade 9
students while other schools include the information over six to 10
hours in PE classes.
Grade 9 was chosen because that’s a typical age for the onset of mental health disorders.
The idea is to de-stigmatize mental illness, educate students about
their brains and offer tools and resources to help when there are
Topics covered in the conference this week at Sutherland included
coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety, information about
specific mental illnesses, how substance use can contribute to the
development of mental health problems, and resources available in the
community to help teens struggling with their mental health.
Next month, UBC will coordinate further training with Kutcher and
teachers from 16 school districts across the province about how to put
similar programs in place in their school districts.
On the North Shore, organizers are also thinking about how parts of
the program can be adapted for intermediate students in elementary
Those involved in organizing the conference at Sutherland this week
don’t expect changes to happen overnight, but stress getting information
out to teens and talking openly about mental health can help open up
Kim Jonat, vice-principal of Sutherland, said students seem more
willing to talk about mental health since the program launched.
Including examples of celebrities who’ve struggled with mental
illness lets students know “you can lead a successful life” even with
mental health challenges, said Jonat. “This is nothing to be ashamed
Read the original article at NSNews.com: http://www.nsnews.com/news/school-conference-for-grade-9s-in-north-vancouver-combats-stigma-of-mental-illness-1.23284142.