Students, school and District staff are sharing how to support mental wellness – as the pandemic has highlighted that now and perhaps more than ever, we need to look after ourselves and each other. Much work is happening across the District and two schools have been recognized with a prestigious designation from a provincial organization.
Burnaby Mountain and Burnaby South Secondary schools represented two of the ten schools in BC to receive a Healthy School Communities designation this May during Mental Health Month awarded by DASH – or Dedicated Action for School Health. The designation by the provincial organization is intended to celebrate schools with a commitment to enhancing the health and well-being of their entire school community. Burnaby Mountain also received the honour last year, as one of the pilot schools. They earned it once again this year for their collaboration – including with partners – led by their Wellness Council with a focus on mental health. Their efforts involve students and staff at the school and are sustained throughout the year, as well as during mental health week. Burnaby South Secondary was also recognized by DASH for their ongoing mental health work and related community support, such as the creation of handmade holiday cards for seniors. With activities, throughout the year, school staff at South also learned from students. Indigenous leadership students taught teachers during a Professional Development Day how to do a “self-check” that they could use each morning, modelled on the Indigenous Healing Circle.
Additionally, this Mental Health Month 800 students from across the District attended the virtual Balancing Our Minds Youth Summit put on by our Safe and Caring Schools Team with funding and support from the Canucks for Kids Fund and the BC Children’s Hospital Health Literacy Team. Guest speakers and conversation topics ranged from substance abuse to de-stigmatizing conversation around mental health.
Several schools put an additional spotlight on Mental Health Week. For example, at Burnaby Central Secondary the theme for their Wildcat Wellness Week was “Surviving or Thriving?” With a different focus each day on topics such as mindfulness, technology and fun, students also explored their sense of self through stories and photos in a moving display entitled “This is Us.”
And in advance of Mental Health Month, the District Student Advisory Council presented a full-day, student-led conference called Solutions Through Discussion: Pathways to Positive Mental Health and Well-being. High school students were invited to attend to learn from professionals in the field about mental health. The event was supported by District staff and was student-led and organized. École Alpha Secondary student Lilah Williamson is the President of DSAC. She presented to the Burnaby Board of Education at their April meeting and told trustees that the idea for this conference came from the work that DSAC began in the 2018-19 school year with Physical and Health Education teachers. That resulted in a student survey where DSAC discovered their peers were particularly interested in learning about stress and how to manage it, how to improve their sleep, and healthy relationships – all topics covered at this April’s event, which was originally intended to be held in the last school year, but was postponed due to the pandemic and held virtually on April 23, instead. Grade 11 student Lilah Williamson:
There were really two key goals. First of all it was to educate students about core aspects of mental health and well-being [that they identified that they wanted to learn about]… The second goal, which was honestly in my opinion the most important, was for students to actually implement what they learned at this conference into their schools in a meaningful way.”
One of the presenters at DSAC’s conference was clinical child psychiatrist Dr. Smita Naidoo, who is part of the team that created the Quest for Rest ZZZPower Sleep Program. The District was one of the first to partner with the program, which is designed to create discussion and activities both at school and at home – all with a view to establishing important strategies for healthy sleep habits. Since it began in schools in February, 40 classes – representing approximately 1000 primary elementary students and their families – have learned how to support good sleep habits through this innovative collaboration. Learn more: Supporting Mental Health: Students Learn About Sleep
Additional Information from the District About Mental Health
Posted May 2021