Mental Health Awareness Day

Sunday, December 10, 2017 - By: Hannah R, Mackenzie ‘18

Knowing that students at Brentwood are faced with many stressors in our day-to-day lives, SPARC organizes a Mental Health Awareness Day every year.

Last Wednesday morning, while the teachers were editing reports, the Grade 11 class gathered in the Killy Theatre to learn about mental health and illness, and ways to maintain mental well being.

Ms. Bell, one of the Resident Faculty Assistants, is passionate about the practice and benefits of mindfulness, so she spoke about that and led everyone in breathing and awareness exercises.

Next, a counsellor and suicide interventionist/preventionist presented on Mental Health First Aid and suicide awareness. She spoke about being a “suicide safe” person: someone who is recognized as being respectful and non-judgemental, someone whom struggling people could talk to. Although we hope never to need to use them, she also gave us strategies for recognizing suicidal behaviour and intervening in time.

To help bring clarity to the “Mental Health Continuum”, another local clinical counsellor spoke about anxiety, depression, and overstress. She showed us symptoms of these disorders, and strategies to maintain our mental wellness.

During a snack break, students had a chance to read a #metoo board created by SPARC. To make this, SPARC reps asked Grade 11s in their houses to write, on index cards, either their stories about mental illness or their methods of keeping themselves well. These were then posted anonymously on a board, which was on display in the theatre. Sticky notes were available for anyone to write a message of support in response to a specific story, or simply to show compassion to those who have struggled with mental illness.

We heard next from two members of the team from a private addiction and counselling clinic in Cobble Hill. Although their presentation was engaging and, at times, funny, they spoke on the serious topics of eating disorders, addiction, and shame-based thinking.

To finish the program, students were divided into groups for the Student Panel. Hearing some of my peers tell of their real struggles with mental illness was one of the most impactful aspects of the day. It takes a huge amount of courage to open to a group of peers who may not be people you completely trust or even know.

Although the morning was long, it was undoubtedly impactful. Thank you to Mrs. Felix, everyone who presented, and the SPARC leaders for making the day what it was!

Hannah R, Mackenzie ‘18 

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