Words Can Change The Way We Perceive Others and Ourselves

Words really do matter. I am in the process of developing an online presentation for adults on mental health and wellness so that they may assist students in their post – secondary programs. As I think about what I will say I recognize 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.

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. Jack or Jill may have a million attributes that are positive and when you use one word to define them you are missing such huge pieces of who they truly are. So 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?

Living Aware … Living Informed … Living Empowered

Alec presenting

I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health and wellness since our mental health symposium facilitated by Alec Couros. Thinking about and discussing mental health is so important. This day was a culmination of five months of meeting with students and staff to discuss what we would like to do. I’ll share more about that later. Check here for some more information on our symposium. Our teachers , counsellors,  students and Alec worked very hard to share with the whole school the importance of mental health.

 Thanks to Kevin , my twitter friend I noticed this tweet:

There are so many things in the article that resonate with me and things I believe high school students , teachers and staff need to know about mental health.

1. Stigma matters: We need to teach students how to pay attention to facts not myths when it comes to mental health

2. Media can either lift up or tear down our understanding of mental health. That’s why we held a mental health symposium and tied it to social media and digital citizenship.

Our students were empowered to use social media to develop mental health literacy skills and to break through some of the stigma around mental health.

3. We need students to understand the difference between a mental health problem, mental health distress and a mental health disorder. Thanks to Stan Kutcher’s materials  students can explore and discover the differences. Let’s begin to STOP over pathologizing.

4. We must continue to dialogue about this important issue.

 

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By having elementary students involved in this symposium , they could see that our students were modelling that mental health and wellness is important.  Digital Citizenship was experienced and shared.

We know students find most of their mental health information on line,  so we need to assist students in finding valuable information that will help them. Mental Health Literacy and Digital Literacy are extremely important. We want students to understand both.

Thanks to #DCMOOC I can tie these two literacies together even more.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW: According to media smarts Matthew Johnson:

  • If there is a rule in the home about respecting others online students will more than likely engage in positive online behaviour.
  • Focus should be on ethics , rather than scare tactics.
  • We can encourage empathy. We need to understand that online we are often missing cues that help us feel empathy . We fall into empathy traps online where we are missing the facial cues, tone of voice , body language etc … Students need to understand this.
  • Don’t be a bystander … be an upstander .
  • ” Many problematic behaviours-bullying, sexting, plagiarism etc. are less common than students think” Knowing this will help the rates drop.
  • To be a citizen means students need to understand and exercise their rights.
  • Let’s help students be involved in civic debates on and off line. We need them to have the skills to be able to do this.
  • Give students opportunities to contribute positively online by not blocking sites that can help them.
  • They need to know how to interact positively in gaming communities. As a member of a community they can change how a community behaves. They can be empowered to act in a pro-active way.
  • Students need privacy policies explained to them. I would guess that many teachers need these explained too.
  • Young people need to know that they have rights to freedom of discrimination, they have the right to be free. Girls often have different experiences on line. Boys and girls have the rights to be free from harassment. Students have a right to be heard. Students need a chance to present their works to authentic audiences. Students have a right to education. Most importantly an education that uses digital technology to explore and understand their world.
  • Students need to know … it is OK to make mistakes.

Thanks so much to Matthew for sharing his expertise.

I believe students when on line and off line need to be good citizens which will in turn affect their positive mental health and well being. Let’s continue the dialogue.

A Mental Health / Wellness Challenge

Today prejudice, stigmatization and discrimination are deeply embedded in our language, in our beliefs and in the way we interact with one another. Though a mental illness is one aspect of an individual’s life, all too often the label alone bars that one person from achieving a self-directed life with meaningful connections to his or her community.

Dr. Neil Houston Sociologist

 

YOUR MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

When it comes to mental health we want students to:

CONNECT

With someone they trust like their teacher advisor , teacher, coach or other significant adult in the school who can then assist them in connecting …

CONNECTING

With their school counsellor who can assist them in connecting with their doctor, health care provider and or parents to assist them with their mental health concerns

CARE

About mental health and wellness and the impact it can have on themselves or their friends or familes

CONCERNED

We want students to be concerned about their fellow human beings and show COMPASSION when it comes to mental health

COLLABORATE

We want educators to collaborate with us to make a difference when it comes to mental health and wellness

and lastly we want to …

CHALLENGE you to take action and integrate mental health into your curriculums. We challenge you to make a difference when it comes to mental health. Our mental health/wellness committee is working on several ways to make a difference , but one idea started by Peter Damen ( fellow Counsellor) was to have an alternative activity that students could get credit for in every discipline Math, English, Science, Social Studies, Phys. Ed, Music. Art, Drama, CTS etc. What is one activity that you could get students to do that would increase their mental health literacy and reduce stigma?

We CHALLENGE you to become literate yourself when it comes to mental health.

If you get the opportunity go to a training with Dr. Stan Kutcher or a Go to Educator training in your area.

One of important things that Dr. Stan Kutcher discussed during a mental health literacy training that I attended was the difference between:

Mental Health Distress (one example lose your keys)
Mental Health Problem (one example a parent dies)
Mental Health Disorder/Illness (one example clinical depression)

We need to teach our young people the difference between distress, problem and disorder and the Mental Health Curriculum Guide does just that. It teaches students and educators the Mental Health Literacy that they need in today’s world based on present day research on the brain. You may get some ideas here to start to integrate this into the subjects you teach.

Are you ready to take the CHALLENGE? If you come up with some ideas please add it to our community doc. We will be creating a google doc that will be ready in June that we will be sharing with you about all our ideas around mental health and wellness in High School.

We are excited about the many possibilities and hope you will join us in CREATING several resources that will be beneficial to all. You can open this doc to start collaborating. School Counsellors and educators can make a difference when it comes to the mental health / wellness of our students and ourselves. We can work together all across the world to make this happen. Won’t YOU join in ?

Do something today to remain CALM make a difference when it comes to  your own mental health. Practice self-care.

 

 

Lesson #16 Children of Alcoholics … School Counsellors Can Help

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Don’t Talk … Don’t Trust … Don’t Feel a saying coined by Dr. Claudia Black a leader in the field of addictions

Lesson#16 We can make a difference

 Children of Alcoholics Haiku Deck cc image slide 3 photo by inkshots

According to the study done by Jane E Mc Namee and David R Offord in 1991 there are approximately one million children of alcoholics living in Canada. No doubt a lot more today. In the US some stats  say one in five children are living with alcoholism.

Children of alcoholics often keep their parents drinking a secret, but teachers and school counsellors can often spot that something is wrong and reach out to these students. Sometimes students show up in our offices sad and scared because mom or dad had been drinking on the weekend and they are feeling helpless and hopeless. Here are some signs that children may be living with alcoholism.

As school counsellors we can identify these children using CAST Children of Alcoholics Screening Test. You as a School Counsellor should not underestimate your ability to have a lfe long impact on children who are living with a loved one with an addiction. You may be the first person this child’s life that they have felt safe enough to share what is happening in their life. You may be the one to give them permission to share openly what they have been feeling and going through. This can be life changing.

Children of Alcoholics need to know:

  • That they are not alone
  • That pouring out or hiding their parent’s alcohol does not help
  • That their parents drinking is not their fault (they did not cause it, they can’t control it and they can’t cure it)
  • That they are not doomed … they can get help and do not have to repeat the pattern themselves (children of alcoholics are at a higher risk for alcoholism and other mental health concerns)
  • There is help for them (they can talk to you the school counsellor) you care
  • They can go to Alateen
  • They do not have to be ashamed (alcoholism is a disease)
  • Alcoholics can get help
  • There is hope and help for them and their family
  • They can learn to be happy and healthy no matter if their parent stops drinking or not
  • They can survive and thrive
  • There is hope, no matter what their situation

You may be the one safe person they can turn to make a difference in their lives. What you say and do does matter.

You can refer them to Alateen in your area.

Find out more .

Here is one teen’s story:

I was so scared at home. I never knew if my dad would be drinking when I got home from school.  Actually I never knew what to expect. Mom was always threatening to leave dad and all four of us (my brother and sisters) would often line up at the door to leave, but we never did. None of my teachers ever knew that there was alcoholism in my home. They often told me how lucky I was that I must have had great parents. I guess that was because I behaved so well in school, trying to be the perfect child so no one would find out my secret. I was embarrassed that my dad drank too much and I was also angry a lot. I was angry with both my mom and my dad. Sometimes I was angrier with my non- alcoholic mom because I did not understand why we stayed and put up with the drinking. I saw her reaction to his drinking and that had an impact on me. I would also throw my dad’s alcohol down the sink or hide it around the house so he could not find it. Little did I realize that doing that was making me sick emotionally. I often felt irritable and unreasonable, but I never knew why. I was in denial about alcoholism being in my family. Here is a journal entry I wrote in the first few weeks I decided reluctantly  to go to Alateen, because I thought it was their problem, not my problem.

“ I wish I could work out my problems. I hope Alateen will help. Mom really doesn’t care about anyone but herself (at least that what she’s pretending to do). I think she needs me as much as I need her, but how do we solve this problem? I depend on mom and dad. I am not mature. I get mad at every little thing without wanting to. I hope Alateen will help with this too. I would try to help myself if I knew how. I remember thinking about killing myself, but I would never go through with it because I was too scared and I did not want to really.”

I’m so grateful I did not go through with harming myself because Alateen did work. Actually my whole family got help. I learned everything I could about how alcoholism affects families and things slowly, but surely got better and better. I recognize that alcoholism affects everyone in the family each to a different degree. Today I look for the good in everyone and everything.  I recognize that I don’t know where I would be today if it were not for Alateen. If you are a teen living with a parent who drinks too much Alateen can help. Reach out!


Children of alcoholics can be resilient and you can help them develop these skills. As a School Counsellor you can be the one and only person that child turns to . You can make a difference!

 

Lessons for a New School Counsellor : Lesson 12 Take Time to Rejuvenate

Lesson 12 Take Time to Rejuvenate

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Here is :  Lessons 1-11

School Counselling can be a very demanding career. Although I dearly love what I do, I know it can be extremely exhausting as well as invigorating. We often hear difficult stories and that can be energy draining. For many students Christmas can be a tough time. It is important for us to take time to heal as well. I am so grateful that I can assist students with their concerns at this time of year, but I also need to slow down and pay attention to how I think , feel and act.

My student counsellor has worked extremely hard from September until now assisting students and their families with concerns that are not always easy. He too needs a break so he can regroup and come back to school refreshed. The following article discusses  compassion fatigue and is such an important topic for any new school counsellor, but also seasoned counsellors to pay attention to as well.

http://www.beyond-balance.com/documents/Self_Care_and_the_School_CounsellorArticle.pdf

Compassion … Be good to yourself …

So this Christmas season enjoy time with your loved ones, rest and rejuvenate , do something fun so that you can continue to make a difference in what you do.

Mental Health Literacy Training

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This week I was extremely fortunate to be Certified as a Trainer for the Mental Health Literacy Program facilitated by renowned psychiatrist Dr. Stan Kutcher

I was excited to be able to participate, as I have known about Dr. Kutcher’s work for a while. I am happy to say all four days were absolutely worth it. I left feeling I had learned many things that will assist me in my professional work and as a result impact the lives of the students we serve in our school community. I also loved his dry wit which absolutely kept me engaged during the process.

The training has fabulous resources for school counsellors, educators and mental health workers to utilize. This program is one of the best I have seen in a long time. It is rich in content, research, and resources.

When it comes to mental health we want students to:

CONNECT

  • With someone they trust like their teacher advisor , teacher, coach or other significant adult in the school who can then assist them in connecting …

CONNECTING

  • With their school counsellor who can assist them in connecting with their doctor, health care provider and or parents to assist them with their mental health concerns

One of important things that  Dr. Stan Kutcher discussed during the four days is the difference between:

  • Mental Health Distress (one example lose your keys)
  • Mental Health Problem (one example a parent dies)
  • Mental Health Disorder/Illness (one example clinical depression)

Too often we do not normalize what young people are feeling. It is normal to feel sad after a break up, but that does not mean the student is in a clinical depression. We need to teach our young people the difference between distress, problem and disorder and the Mental Health Curriculum Guide  does just that. It teaches students and educators the Mental Health Literacy that they need in today’s world based on present day research on the brain.

If you want to learn more you can take a quiz here to get you started…

Below I will share a few of the fantastic resources available. You may want to book a training in your area if you do contact @TMentalHealth

Digital storytelling:

Panic Disorder:

Coping with suicidal thoughts:

http://teenmentalhealth.org/resources/entries/coping-with-suicidal-thoughts/

Depression:

I really hope educators from around the globe will consider this fantastic program as part of any initiative that will benefit every student and family in their school and community.