Life can hand us joy and excitement, but it can also deal out disappointment, sadness and frustration. Navigating through the low parts of life as a teenager can be difficult, and it can be hard to know when a teen requires additional help. The ability to differentiate normal life stress and when a teen may require more health supports is one of the things 50 teachers and counselors from four school divisions in the Saskatoon area learned during a three-day training workshop at the Willows in Saskatoon in late September.
The workshop was led by TeenMentalHealth.Org’s Dr. Stan Kutcher.
“Students may not always have the tools to talk about what they are feeling; having a wider vocabulary to talk about mental health and adults in place that can help them understand and cope with life’s challenges is important,” said Karyn Kawula, Director of Mental Health and Addictions Services for the Saskatchewan Health Authority in Saskatoon. “The workshop gave teachers the tools to support students and get them involved in a conversation about mental wellness, resiliency and healthy relationships, which will go a long way to supporting their welfare.”
Educators from four Saskatoon Area School Divisions gathered for a three day Mental Health Literacy Workshop at the Willows in Saskatoon Sept. 19-21.
Dr. Kutcher’s training hit the nail on the head for both teachers and counselors attending the workshop.
“The training does provide a framework that system-wide will more adequately imbed a sense of consistency and common language as opposed to not being as strategic in speaking about or teaching mental health literacy,” said Diane Kendal, a counselor in Prairie Spirit School Division, who attended the workshop. “Now what we do is apply and implement the training.”
Near the end of day three, time was allotted for divisions to sit down and strategize how to take this knowledge back and implement it within their schools. Kendal and other school counselors saw a huge value in having champions in the schools to build momentum within the faculty and students.
“Awareness and the ability to have conversations are key. For counselors, the ability to help students understand what their struggles are is the first step in helping them work through those issues and build resiliency in teens so they are better able to manage the everyday pressures of life,” Kendal said.
This Teen Mental Health Literacy Workshop was just one step in implementing a more robust mental wellness program in schools.
Following the training session, teachers will use what they’ve learned to deliver the Health Education curricula to students in classrooms throughout the four school divisions that took part.
“Programs like this, when embedded into existing school curriculums, enable increased understanding of mental health problems, mental illnesses and helps decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness,” Kutcher said. “It also gives teachers the necessary literacy to foster positive mental health initiatives in schools, and help create safe and supportive environments for their students.”
Youth spend more time in school than they do anywhere else, except their own home, so school is one of the best places for both educators and students to become increasingly aware of mental health, mental health problems and mental disorders. The ability to integrate Dr. Kutcher’s materials into the curriculum through conversations and projects will lead to a deeper understanding of mental wellness for students.
The training was made possible by the Royal University Hospital Foundation’s (RUHF) Community Mental Health Endowment Grant as well as with support from the Tori Hanson Fund and Saskatchewan Alliance for Youth Wellbeing’s Healthy Schools and Communities Grant.