Teachers are helping students from Chinook Edge schools take a new approach to tackle mental health within their peer groups.

The goal is to end the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses, and it’s going to be done through leadership. Teachers pick students that promote health and wellness in their communities and are sending them to a conference this Thursday, December 6th.

Director of the YES program Raelynn Notley says, “Students were selected by staff as being natural leaders within their building, and they had to be willing to come to this day and then take on the initiative afterward.”

This is an initiative created by Chinook Edge’s YES program and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

“I think that the students really have a lot of power within their peer group in promoting mental health and wellness.”

Notley says they are the ones that their friends will be looking to come to when they have questions.

“Five out of six young people diagnosed don’t often go for help because of the stigma surrounding it, and they often don’t know where to go, so we want to break down those to barriers.”

Students will be participating from Chinook’s Edge schools in Carstairs, Didsbury, Cremona, Olds, Sylvan Lake, Sundre, Spruce View, Bowden, and Innisfail.

But it doesn’t just stop after they attend the conference, they must also plan activities, mental health challenges, and be positive leaders within their school system.

The busy conference day will include keynote speakers, discussions, and planning around changing attitudes.

The school board originally was going to cap the attendance at 100 students but with the amount of teacher recommendations, they now have a total of 156.

“It’s not just a one day event, where they come and they hear this experience, they really understand that they have a role to play in this school year and the next school year.”

The conference is the first of its kind in the division and involves students from grades seven to eleven.

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