Grade 8 students from Davidson, Kenaston, Loreburn, Outlook and Dinsmore were in Outlook on March 15 to participate in Talking to Youth Live (TTYL): an interactive day to educate and create awareness among youth about mental health and addictions, while building relationships with local professionals.
Students at Talking to Youth Live showcase their wellness mural.
“It is not a day that is focused on saying ‘No’ to drugs, but rather giving those supports, such as relationship and coping skills and education on drugs,” said Liza Dahl, addictions educator for the Sun West School Division. “It may better prepare them to handle peer pressure at a later time.” Throughout the day, students rotated through activities and games related to mental health, addictions, impairment, consequences and choices and practical ways to maintain mental wellness. Activities, such as life-size versions of the games Jenga, Snakes and Ladders and Kerplunk and an obstacle course, made the learning fun and interactive. The day concluded with a guest speaker who has experienced addictions.
Sessions were facilitated by mental health and addictions counsellors from the Saskatchewan Health Authority, school counsellors from the Sun West School Division and Dahl.
Crystal Storey, Population Health co-ordinator for the Saskatchewan Health Authority in Rosetown, helped co-ordinate the day.
“In 2010, the health region and community partners developed the program for a one-day event hosted by Unity,”she said. “In 2013, TTYL was revitalized and expanded after discussions with staff of the Sun West School Division about the need for factual information provided to Grade 8 students. Programming already existed for grades 6 and 10, but nothing for this group, [who are at] an age where social and peer pressures are mounting. The general consensus from the discussion was that the day needs to be fun to capture the youths’ attention, but it can also allow the students to see the local professionals in a less intimidating environment, thus making it easier for them to seek out services, if ever needed.”
One of the day’s sessions explored what happens when the “i” in illness is replaced by “we” – It becomes wellness. In this session, the students participated in some teamwork exercises, mindful meditation, physical exercise for social fun and hanging out with friends. At the end of the session, they wrote messages on a big mural about what wellness meant to them. Many of the messages focus on the importance of family and friends.
“It was pretty fun and I liked that we were able to sit around our groups and talk about things like drugs and mental health,” said Mya Charette, a Grade 8 student from Davidson. “I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did.”
Ian Osmond, one of the teachers at the event, said the best part of the day for him was the way the activities were set up to allow the kids to feel more comfortable with each other and have them open up and ask questions about mental health and addictions.
Jhalene Groth, addictions counsellor for the Saskatchewan Health Authority in Unity, said a highlight for her was providing the information to the kids and having them ask questions about things they might not have known before. “The reward of this day for me is to think that I may have possibly made a difference for these students and that they may think twice before they go to risky behaviours.”
TTYL is provided to all Grade 8 classes within the former Heartland Health Region area. This includes 20 schools in the Sun West and Living Sky School divisions and is offered through five separate sessions.