Mental health is not always a topic that people enjoy discussing but it is something that is becoming more and more important to discuss. According to United Way Central Alberta, 1 in 5 people in central Alberta will struggle with mental health during any given year.
Red Deer’s Outreach Centre is working hard to teach local students about mental health so that students can feel comfortable with having their mental health needs met. The organization offers a variety of programming for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Brooke Dalton, is a School Based Educator with the Outreach Centre who works with schools across the central Alberta area.
“We’re not going to talk to Kindergarten students about things that are well beyond their grasp. We’re going to talk to them about if you’re having uncomfortable feelings and who can you talk to? Who is a trusted adult? We talk to grade seven students specifically about coping skills and when we feel really stressed. How can we stop that stress response so that we can really think about what we need in the moment? Even though we have specific topics for every grade they are really geared towards promoting mental health in general,” explained Dalton.
Every year, Dalton visits around 20 to 30 schools throughout the central Alberta area. By teaching students, she is hoping to squash the stigma around talking about our mental health. Dalton will even address topics around suicide with older students.
“There's this idea that I better not talk about this because it can be uncomfortable, or I might feel shamed, or people may judge me. By talking about mental health in a really open and compassionate way, hopefully, we're helping empower students to feel a little bit more comfortable having those conversations and knowing that mental health and mental illnesses affect a lot of different people but there's ways to cope,” said Dalton.
Her goal is to have students think about mental health in the same way most people think about our physical health.
Local schools have seen positive outcomes based on the Outreach Centre’s school-based programming. Some local teachers believe that program have prevented devastating situations.
“I believe it's a program where we can't possibly know the amount of people whose lives have potentially been saved as a result of the content provided which not only empowers but educates our students to help each other out. I believe that once kids have experienced this presentation they are less hesitant to approach counselors, teachers and trusted adults in our building to bring forward concerns about friends who are potentially struggling,” Fiona Hicks, CALM Coordinator in Red Deer Public Schools.
“We do not expect students to know exactly what to say in these potentially devastating situations, but letting them know that it is ok to listen and to talk, helps them become stronger dealing with the things in life that are not always easy to deal with. It is also important that our students know how to get help, as we are giving them a lifeline that could save a life,” said Jamie Siler, Coordinator of Career and Life Management at Lindsay Thurber High School.
In addition, to the programming being taught in schools, the Outreach Centre also has a variety of free online mental health programs that you can access by clicking here.
Stay tuned to Sunny 94 for A Holiday Hope Radiothon for the Outreach Centre on November 15th. For more information click here.