Depression, anxiety and suicide take centre stage at Victoria High next week, as the school’s leadership class hosts three days of mental health awareness workshops for students.
Entitled Your Mind Matters: Let’s Talk about Mental Health, the events are intended to de-stigmatize the concerning number of young people impacted by mental health issues, says Leslie Albers, Vic High leadership teacher.
“I’ve seen such a growth in anxiety among students in my years of teaching and it can be quite debilitating for kids,” Albers says. “Students want to know when it’s not just worrying, and they want to be able to help their friends.”
Statistics Canada numbers show youth aged 15 to 24 are more likely to suffer from depression, mood disorders, anxiety, panic disorders, mania, agoraphobia and substance abuse than the general population.
Other issues leading to high anxiety are the pressures getting into post-secondary studies and the unemployment rate for young people, which is nearly 14 per cent across the country.
The idea for a seminar-style event on mental health came from a core group of Grade 11 students who felt their knowledge on depression, anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses was lacking.
“We’re just hoping that this event will open the discussion and provide students with information and coping strategies,” Albers says.
Kicking off the series April 29, keynote speaker Brent Seal will share his journey from suicide attempt and mental illness to the ultra-marathoner and motivational speaker he is today. Seal graduated in 2010 from Simon Fraser University as valedictorian and spends his time as an ambassador for addressing mental health.
The following day, leadership students host 12 workshops and presentations about specific mental disorders and illnesses including eating disorder, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. Trained school counsellors will participate in each workshop.
On May 1, leadership students host a lunchtime event promoting strategies that contribute to mental wellness that includes free food, exercise demonstrations, activities and games.
“This seems to be a fairly unique event for a high school, although I don’t think our high school is unique in student mental health challenges, it’s just our society,” Albers said.
“But the response has been very positive from speakers and we hope it’s the same for students.”