I hear it all too often, youth saying they have anxiety when what they really mean is that they are feeling anxious. If you listen to the news you would believe that our youth are in crisis . The data would suggest otherwise 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime . It’s true and needs to be addressed and has been for the past 20 or so years. The stats have not changed. What’s also true is that 4 out of every 5 Canadians don’t have a mental health disorder and it’s up to us to teach the difference between a disorder and everyday feelings that we all have. Some may need the assistance of a professional to understand the difference. Your School Counsellor is a good place to start. They are trained professionals who understand the difference and can assist in finding supports.
For the 1 in 5 youth that will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime we need to assist them in getting all the supports necessary. For the youth that are experiencing distress over a multitude of concerns we must also listen and support them , teaching them how to cope with life’s challenges and concerns. Supporting youth with their feelings helps us understand what steps to take next. Their feelings are important , so we must not dismiss them.
Words do matter and helping our youth become literate when it comes to mental health can have a positive impact. If you need resources and ideas on how to make that happen check out teenmentalhealth.org. You can also find more information on anxiety here and here.
If you are wondering whether a youth truly has an anxiety disorder, some waitful watching may be in order. Don’t be quick to jump to a diagnosis ( and a reminder that you must be qualified to do so ) even then waitful watching is a good idea.
Some questions to reflect on :
Frequency : How frequent are the anxious feelings? Once or more a day , once a week , once a year?
Duration: How long do the feelings last? A few minutes, hours , weeks , months?
Intensity: Does the youth avoid situations because they are too anxious to cope? Is the anxiety taking control of them instead of them controlling it? Are they having trouble coping with everyday life because of their anxiety?
Have they seen a medical doctor to rule out any other medical concerns?
As School Counsellors and educators one of the biggest responsibilities we have is to keep our students safe .
How do we do that? Very carefully and with much thought and effort as well as an understanding of the research around what works best. Bruce Perry founder of child trauma academy states that active shooter training is not always done properly , the training that occurs in schools should focus on adults. He says, “if the educators and people who are responsible for children remain calm then the students will reflect that emotional state”. Read more about what he says here.
What can be done? The answers are complex and require teams of people to assist. That is where a Comprehensive School Counselling Plan comes in. School Counsellors are always looking at ways to make school better for students, putting the psychological health and safety of students as a priority. We need to get students the help they need long before a serious threat occurs. The answers are not easy , but those who have learned before us can teach us some things we may need to know. Take a look at these recommendations from the Sandy Hook advisory committee.
As stated in that report , “There is at least one place, other than a home, in which every person, whether a child or adult, should feel absolutely safe and secure from the threat of physical harm: school. ” I could not agree more. School Counsellors can take the lead along with staffs to make schools a safe place to be. Mental health literacy is essential for all students and staff members. Building relationships is one small step towards creating a community that focuses on what is important.
Working to ensure that we have a safe and caring school community is always on the mind of a professional school counsellor. Best practices should be reviewed and reflected upon each year based on individual school needs. School Counsellors are in a unique position to assist in preventative measures helping students to deal with stressors and social isolation. We also know it takes a team and we don’t have all the answers, but there are many things we can do and are doing already. We are but one of a community of people that make a difference. We as School Counsellors can help make our schools a safe place to be.
I could not be prouder to volunteer with the Youth Champion Initiative . What the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre , Youth Smarts Calgary and Canadian Mental Health do to support our youth is inspiring and so extremely important. I love that I am able to help in a tiny way . Kim Campbell and Ashley Lamantia lead the way to help youth day in and day out. Thanks for all you do all year-long.
The real reason I volunteer for this initiative is that if I can help in some small way to promote the work that Sheldon Kennedy has already done and is doing to make a difference for youth, especially when it comes to child abuse and sexual abuse, then I too can feel like I have contributed . I can be very proud to stand up and say I have done my very small part to open the door to this discussion and be a part of the incredible work already being done. I can celebrate students and staff who also want to make a difference when it comes to child advocacy.
According to the SKCAC in 2008 there were 14,403 substantiated cases of child abuse in Alberta. 7091 infants , youth and children were seen at the centre and 124 new cases are assessed each month.
Mental health and trauma affect way too many of our students , so collaborating with people who are continuing to have an impact makes me feel I have contributed to a society that cares about the mental health and the wellbeing of our youth and that is something for me that is so worthy of doing!
The impact that social media has on kids is undeniable. A recent article in the New York Times highlights some of the more concerning issues.
I don’t think we need much convincing that social media has had an impact on all our lives and it is not going away anytime soon. I am a neophyte when it comes to social media, but in my work with children and their families over the past 30 years has allowed me a first hand insight into the world of children and their families.
What can we do as parents, counsellors and educators to mitigate the impact that social media is having on our young people? As in any situation where we are trying to teach children, we ourselves need to be the role model. We need to examine the message we send our kids when we are engaged in use of our own devices. What parameters do we have for ourselves when it comes to use of devices? Do we actually have discussions with our kids about amount of usage, times and places that are no go zones for adults and kids? Do we understand the safety issues and if not do we educate ourselves about these issues and discuss them with our children? Yes, with any privilege comes responsibility, both for us as the adult and for our children whom we must guide to be ethical digital citizens. Don’t let their media skills fool you! Although they appear to be very savvy in the area of technology, they do not have the life experience or a fully developed brain that allows them to project the outcome of what they may see as just having a little fun or wanting to fit in.
Picking up the pieces. I work with so many vulnerable youth and one in particular convinced me to not watch. This young person was incredibly triggered by watching the show and made me realize that I did not need to watch it in order to know the harm it could cause to those who are at risk.
Was I curious? Like most of you yes, and I do understand that it is compelling for both adults and youth to want to watch the series, but I also chose to not read the book years ago for some of the reasons I am about to discuss. For those who did watch … this is not a criticism, just a choice I want to make for my own reasons.
I think young people need to know that there are adults who while they may be very curious about the series will still choose to NOT watch . I know this show was NOT created to really help young people , otherwise they would have based the series on solid research around suicide, how it is portrayed in media and the impact on youth. I do realize the creators say they consulted with medical experts and had good intentions however, I do think they missed out on some valuable helpful information when it comes to suicide. Stan Kutcher , a Psychiatrist and mental health expert from Dalhousie University whom I respect believes the show could be dangerous to young people who choose to watch it.
I do not need to see the show to be informed and personally I have NO desire to see a child die by suicide (even if it is television). Some things on TV are even too graphic for me.
I choose not to be triggered by watching the show. I have worked with too many vulnerable youth. I know that I need to practice self-care . Watching this series is not going to make me a better parent , School Counsellor or Psychologist . Being able to discuss sensitive topics is essential and I believe I can do so without actually watching this series.
I plan on reading as many articles as I can that give informed information that is helpful regarding the series . The National Association of School Psychologists gives important information on how to do so responsibly. Dialoguing and engaging youth in thoughtful conversations around sensitive topics is essential. Yes, I certainly know a lot and I mean a lot have already chosen to watch and will watch this series , some will do so with their parents most I am guessing will watch on their own. Parents who watch can and will open a conversation that is useful and helpful with their child. I am just saying for me , I want students to know it is OK to not watch if they have not already done so.
I want all people to know that suicide is complex. We are learning more and more about the brain . I am sure new research in the future will give us a better understanding of some of the complexities.
I want students to know the protective factors, risk factors and warning signs of suicide. We have Canada Mental Health come in every year to speak to all our grade 10 High School Students.
I want all students and adults to become more literate when it comes to mental health. All staff at our school are trained in the go to educator series. You might want to consider this for your school.
This show is NOT hopeful . Students need HOPE in as many ways as possible.
Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. THERE IS HELP! If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult, like your School Counsellor or call Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868.
School Counsellors across the world (#scchat) work very hard to let others know that they work diligently daily to help and serve students . They do save lives . They may possibly be the unsung hero in a child’s life , but that is not often the way they are depicted on tv or in movies and from what I have read definitely not in this series. There are also lots of other people who do like parents, teachers, administrators, support staff, coaches, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, and friends. I want youth to reach out and keep asking for help until someone they trust makes that difference. WE DO CARE!!!!!
The opinions expressed in this article are mine alone. This is my choice and although I listed 13 reasons I could have listed many more. I do not regret my decision. I know it is best for me.
“Be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you.” … “Offer yourself to the world — your energies, your gifts, your visions, your heart — with open-hearted generosity.” – Parker Palmer
Our students are passionate when it comes to mental health and wellness. They continue to work diligently when it comes to mental health and anti.stigma spreading messages of hope. All year they have continuued to do things that make a difference. Finally due to the generosity of Gary Nissen and Empowering minds … Connex we were able to produce this lovely colouring book for all to enjoy! Every year partial proceeds will go to a different chaity, but this year students chose the Children’s Hospital mental health unit.
Thanks so much to all those who collaborated with the wellness team to make this a very special project. Our photography , spectrum and who’s frank clubs. All know the importance of reducing stigma. raising awareness and improving overall wellness. We hope you have fun , relax and enjoy this students led project that is meant to touch your heart and make a difference. So let go, de-stress be as creative as you want . We hope you will be inspired to design your own colouring page while thinking about the messages that matter from our students.
Words really do matter. I had originally wrote this post because I was developing an online presentation for adults on mental health and wellness so that they may assist students in their Post – Secondary programs. As I thought about what I would say I recognized that my words matter. What I say could potentially influence educators. What they say to their students could potentially transform what happens for the students and their families. Mental health literacy matters, stigma matters , words matter.
This week our students at BCHS released their anti-slur campaign . Real evidence that words do matter . Click here for all of their words.
Sometimes I hear people use words way too loosely when describing someone with a mental illness or someone who has special needs or challenges. They may say so and so is an ADHD kid or so and so is bipolar, an alcoholic etc. It matters to me when I hear words used inappropriately as I believe strongly that we are people first ( the labels used like ADHD are only a very small way of telling us something about someone). We are so much more.
Who we truly are cannot or should not be described in a few words. So the next time you find yourself using the label first STOP and THINK about the power of your words. Jim or Joan may have a million attributes that are positive and when you use one word to define them you are missing out on such huge pieces of who they truly are. Eliminate so and so is a developmentally delayed child etc. and say their name and the many wonderful things about them. When you do this you start to perceive them differently. You also begin to treat each human being , each child in your care with so much more dignity and respect. Words really do matter. Words can bring about acceptance.Words can change our brains. Words can hurt or heal. Words can hold back or help. Words can break hearts or touch hearts.Words can build others up or tear them down.Words allow people to tell their stories . Words give people their voices . Words can challenge us to be resilient. Words can give us the strength to carry on … to give us HOPE.Words can ruin someone’s day or make someone’s day .Words have the power to change others and change ourselves. What words will you use when speaking about and to your students today?