Training for Grey Bruce Mental Health Champions

Macphail Memorial Elementary School students presenting their school wellness initiatives

About 185 Grade 7 to 10 students and staff from 20 Bluewater board schools have participated in mental health leadership training.

The group convened at the Bayshore Community Centre in Owen Sound this week for workshops and presentations

Youth health and wellness panel presentations included impaired and distracted driving, as well as guidelines for sleep and screen time.

Brainstorming sessions and action planning empowered the new Youth Mental Health Champions with a wealth of ideas to bring back to their respective school communities.

A highlight of the day was the keynote speaker and Paralympic champion Josh Cassidy of Port Elgin, whose accolades include numerous medals in world competitions and winning the Boston Marathon.

Josh’s awe-inspiring message “My struggle makes me stronger” focused on his personal journey as a survivor of childhood cancer, who was left partially paralyzed, and how he leveraged these challenges to build resiliency and pursue a dream of competing in Paralympic sports.

His presentation emphasized the importance of positive thinking and the attitudes he adopted to overcome obstacles through passion, determination, time, and hard work. To wrap up his talk, students were led through a group meditation, which allowed them to experience the benefits of practicing mindfulness.

BWDSB Mental Health Lead Rene Langen shared details on the crucial mental health-related conversations that are occurring at the board around the promotion of well-being, reducing stigma, and ensuring that local resources are available to support schools.

Students learned that there is a distinct difference between mental health and mental illness, but that the two are on a continuum and interconnected.

Two Macphail Memorial Elementary School Youth Mental Health Champions explained their initiatives including Kindness Counts” cards and a giving tree.

In-depth information was also shared on everyday mental health classroom activities for students to consider with a focus on the following areas: emotion identification, executive functioning: critical and creative thinking, positive motivation, relationship skills, self-confidence, and stress management: breathing, mindfulness, relaxation, letting go.

Self-care break-out sessions in the afternoon offered hands-on activities in holistic art-based therapy, a chance to participate in a mental health run/walk/talk group, and a workshop on the connection between nutrition and mental health.

Moderated by local mental health advocate Jon Farmer, the event included representatives from the Grey Bruce Health Unit, Canadian Mental Health Association Grey Bruce, Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving, WES for Youth Online, The Grey Bruce We CARE Project, Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, and St. John Ambulance.