Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Mental Health and Well-Being

On Friday May 5th, 2016 I co-facilitated a Mental Health and Well-Being Presentation to the staff at Moraine Hills Public School in York Region District School Board during our Professional Development Day (PA/PD Day). 


My fellow co-worker Margaret Freiwah and I recognized May as Mental Health Awareness Month and decided to create and implement a powerpoint presentation on the following topics:
-What is Mental Health?
-What is Mental Illness?
-The types of Mental Illnesses
-The Mental Health Continuum Model
-The importance of Mental Health
-Introduction of our Mental Health Initiatives

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, Mental Health is the ability to feel, think and act in ways that enhance one's ability to enjoy life and deal with challenges.


There are many types of Mental Illnesses but are not limited to the following:

Substance –Related Disorders
Mood Disorders
   -  Depression
   -  Bipolar Disorders
Anxiety Disorders
   -  OCD
   -  Social Phobia
   -  Panic Disorders
   -  PTSD
Eating Disorders
   -  Anorexia
   -  Bulimia
Psychotic Disorders
  -  Schizophrenia 


Mental Health Canadian Statistics:

  • 1 in 5 Canadians are currently living with a Mental Illness
  • Anxiety, Depression, and Self-Injurious behaviours are the top 3 Mental Illnesses in Schools
  • Depression, Substance Abuse, and Anxiety are the top 3 Mental Illnesses Overall
  • Mental health issues often develop during adolescence but can persist throughout adulthood
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canada in ages 16-25 (Often much higher in First Nations, Aboriginal, Inuit, and Metis Communities due to the hardships they have had to encounter)
  • 63% of youth indicated that embarrassment, feat, peer pressure, and/or stigma are the major barriers to young people seeking help for mental health problems- %19 would not recognize if they had a problem and 12% would not know where to get help


(Mental Health First Aid Training, 2015; Health Canada, 2006; Health Agency of Canada, 2002)






Our staff had the opportunity to analyze and discuss the Mental Health Continuum Model which provided them with an understanding that Mental Health really does fluctuate depending on a variety of factors; however, it is only detrimental if it falls under the injured or ill phase for prolonged periods of time. We found this to be a great resource also because it provides some actions to take within each of the phases to help with maintaining or regaining ones' Mental Health.

How Can We Help?
  • Understand that students who are moving towards the right of the continuum may experience difficulty in learning and attending and may require additional support
  • Understand the signs of mental illness and where to direct students who may need more support/where to find out which services they may be able to access
  • Create lessons or opportunities to help build resilient students using the Healthy Schools Sample Action Plan Activities to Support Mental Health Promotion & Stigma Reduction Resources Guide
  • Attend professional development workshops/seminars/training to broaden your knowledge base pertaining to Mental Health and Supporting Mental Health
Training Opportunities

I have recently had the opportunity to participate in 3 training opportunities that I found to be very beneficial and helpful in my own understanding and ability to support those with a Mental Illness and to promote Mental Health and Well-Being. These are courses I highly recommend to every person, no matter what field of work you are in because there are people anywhere and everywhere that are suffering from a Mental Illness who may require support.



"The program does not teach people how to be therapists. It does teach people how to: 

  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems. 
  • Provide initial help. 
  • Guide a person towards appropriate professional help. 
MHFA aims to: 
  • Preserve life where a person may be a danger to themselves or others. 
  • Provide help to prevent the mental health problem from developing into a more serious state. 
  • Promote the recovery of good mental health. 
  • Provide comfort to a person experiencing a mental health problem."
For more information and to register for a course please visit: http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.ca/EN/ABOUT/Pages/default.aspx 




"Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is for everyone 16 or older—regardless of prior experience—who wants to be able to provide suicide first aid. Shown by major studies to significantly reduce suicidality, the ASIST model teaches effective intervention skills while helping to build suicide prevention networks in the community.

Workshop features:
  • Presentations and guidance from two LivingWorks registered trainers
  • A scientifically proven intervention model
  • Powerful audiovisual learning aids
  • Group discussions
  • Skills practice and development
  • A balance of challenge and safety"
For more information and to register for a course please visit: https://www.livingworks.net/programs/asist/




"Designed to reach young children under the age of eight years, RIRO skills training works by laying a strong foundation of thinking and coping skills that support resilience in the adults who care for and work with them. RIRO teaches "3Rs of Resilience"– skills to help RelaxReflect and Respond effectively to life's challenges.[1] 

The resiliency skills help adults and children develop several critical abilities associated with resilience:

  • being in charge of our emotions
  • controlling our impulses
  • analyzing the cause of problems
  • empathizing with others 
  • believing in our competence 
  • maintaining realistic optimism
  • reaching out to others and opportunities.
RIRO Resiliency Skills Training gives service providers skills and theory to support a relationship-based reflective practice and provides a framework for creating a "culture of resilience" in programs serving young children."

For more information and to register for a course please visit: 
http://www.reachinginreachingout.com/programs-riro.htm 


Our Mental Health Initiatives at Moraine Hills Public School


-Weekly Staff Resources
Each week at Moraine Hills Margaret and I are working on creating and compiling resources for each of the Mental Illnesses. Each resource contains: what it is, signs and symptoms, how to help, and a list of web-based resources/apps. We have newly implemented this at Moraine Hills and will continue it into next year.



-Gratitude Wall
Research shows that people who incorporate gratitude into their daily lives have a more optimistic outlook and are more appreciative of everyday things. Being able to see the bright side of life rather than focusing on a lack, is a major factor in improving happiness. We have put up large murals within a central location in our school beside our equity board. We encouraged all staff and students to write one thing they were grateful for on the wall and it was a huge success!





-Community Circle Activities
One activity that kindiekorner, play.create.inquire, and I implement regularly in our classroom is called the Empathy Thumball. The students pass the ball around and whichever spot your thumb lands on is the question you get to answer. This is a great way for students to identify their own emotions and triggers as well as understand how others feel and how they can help others. You may purchase this ball at www.youthlight.com or at amazon.ca. Customized Thumballs are available!




-Parking Lot Questions & Presentations 
During our Mental Health & Wellness Presentation, we implemented a TRIBES Learning Community Strategy called the Parking Lot (See blog post-Fostering an Inclusive and Respectful Learning Community). The Parking Lot is a piece of chart paper where staff may write any questions or comments they have during the staff meeting onto Post-it notes which are then added to the "Parking Lot". At the end of the presentation we were able to review the notes and come up with the Weekly Staff Resources (described above) as many teachers felt they were unsure of signs and symptoms or were unsure of what resources they could access. Our Admin has kindly asked us to present regularly during staff meetings about each of the different Mental Illnesses and we will continue to implement the "Parking Lot" to further support our staff.




Resonating Quote



"Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When "I" is replaced by "We", illness becomes wellness
- Shannon L. Alder

This quote resonated with me because it highlights the importance of focusing on the WE, the supporting of others to enhance well-being. I created this blog post so that I can reach out to everyone on a variety of social media platforms and educate them on the importance of Mental Health and supporting those with Mental Illness.