A grassroots initiative that took flight after the suicide of a community member is impacting children’s mental health in Nipawin.
It has been four years since Dwayne Eberle lost his battle with mental health issues and took his own life. Family, friends, and coworkers have raised funds with hopes of creating something that would honour his memory and give back to his community.
Nipawin Nurse Practitioner Tara Rudy, a member of the local Primary Health Care (PHC) leadership team who has a passion for mental health, worked with four partners to build a program to help local children struggling with mental health issues.
Using principles of the HIGH FIVE® program, the team partnered to build a pilot program for Grade 2 students at Central Park School. Grade 2 students were selected for the pilot based on their growth and development.
“That’s when we start to see bigger issues arise with anxiety, depression, family breakdown,” Rudy says.
Rudy introduced one of the five adapted Principles (A Caring Adult, A Friend, Play, Mastery, and Mindful Participation) to students every two months.
“It’s been, honestly, amazing. They’re applying the skills hands-on rather than just knowing the information,” she explained, adding the students are sharing their skills on the playground with their peers.
Moving forward, the plan is to follow the students and reconnect with them in Grade 5, Grade 8, and Grade 10, reinforcing and adapting the skills they learned as they transition through new stages of their lives and into adulthood. At the stage where students begin struggling with deeper anxiety and mental health issues, the connection to Mental Health and Addictions services will be made. Going forward, the program will be provided to Grade 2 students at Central Park School on an annual basis.
Beyond the boundaries of the Town of Nipawin, the program is also making an impact. Rudy and three other Saskatchewan Health Authority Primary Health Care professionals (Rita Robertson and Shelly Cal of Hudson Bay and Heather Turcotte of Tisdale) presented the adapted program at a workshop hosted by the Saskatchewan Early Childhood Association (SECA) this past spring.
Rudy credits the program’s success to its community connection.
“It was really community-based. We needed to support them in this initiative in that suicide is huge - it’s not just their friend.”
Nipawin NP Tara Rudy (left) is pictured with the partners she worked alongside to build a new local youth mental health program.