Let's Talk.

posted: Friday, January 27, 2017 

If you were anywhere near social media on Wednesday, chances are you may have come across the hashtag "#BellLetsTalk". What started as an initiative in 2010 has since grown drastically, and the conversation about Canada's mental health has gained incredible momentum. As a result, mental health institutions and organizations across the country have received new funding for access, care, and research, and each time the hashtag was used on social media on January 25, now known as "Bell Let's Talk Day," a donation was made to help end the stigma.

At SJR, we strive to develop confident, well-rounded, respectful and respectable individuals - they are, after all, the leaders of tomorrow! We also realize that one of the biggest hurdles for anyone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma attached to it. This national conversation is a great step toward lasting change, but we also aim to do our best in this regard closer to home.
In our counselling centre, there are two members of staff who work with Middle School and Senior School students, and one who works with those in Junior School. And it isn't just on "Let's Talk" day that attention is given to mental wellness, coping, and creating safe spaces: On Day 1 of each school cycle, the door is open for any student to drop in and join in with "Frantic and Frazzled?" - a club which began in 2015, and has drawn in students at lunchtimes ever since. We know our students work extremely hard, and that it's not always easy to talk about feeling overwhelmed or stressed, and the club provides a safe, calming space and offers a variety of activities designed to help.
On January 25, one activity students took part in was a discussion on music, and how it has the power to change our mood for the better. They began by sharing songs that were uplifting and helped them feel better. They chose the song "Be As You Are" by Mike Posner as a stand-out track with a great message, and added other songs to create a playlist together. One staff member even released a lyric music video of her own and shared it with the counsellors for students to add to their playlist, having written it as a message of support for anyone struggling with feeling alone, overwhelmed, or dealing with mental illness. Through the activity and discussion on music, students learned some coping mechanisms to help, even at home, when they may be feeling stressed.
Another club, running on Day 5 of each school cycle, is called "Between the Lines" - this focuses more on calming, mindful, artistic activities including colouring and other art projects. Students are welcome to explore the book collection, colour in black and white art provided or bring in their own. And though the clubs run on designated days, the doors are always open for students to drop in any time they need.
The goal is to have a quiet, calming space where students can feel free to talk, connect (often connections will form across grades!), and truly be themselves. The space itself has recently been updated thanks to a generous furniture donation from the SJR Parents' Association, making it even more welcoming and comfortable. Students can share or borrow resources, feel safe, and perhaps most importantly, know that if they are feeling a certain way, that they aren't alone - and that the SJR community cares.