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HEADSTRONG Summit Equips Student Leaders to Reduce Mental Illness Stigma

Students from high schools and experiential schools across the region are working to promote mental health and reduce stigma after taking part in the HEADSTRONG Summit organized by SchoolsPlus and numerous partners.

On Thursday, October 18, 49 students in grades 9 to 12 along with numerous staff advisors and community partners met at Brigadoon Village for a day-long summit focused on mental health.

 

Through personal stories of people who have experienced mental illness, interactive activities and discussions, students learned how mental health stigma hurts people and prevents them from getting the help they need. The goal is to flip the narrative on mental health, to focus on the person, not the illness.

To help examine perceptions and narratives related to mental health, students developed a “porcupine map” – first, drawing “quills” of the stereotypes and negative attitudes associated with mental illness, then how those negative ideas affect a person. After hearing speakers discuss their own experiences with mental illness, more quills were added to describe the experience and the person.

By the end of the day, students had created plans to bring information and positive messages from the summit back to their home schools, to help combat stigma. Their ideas range from information on daily announcements, creating safe places for people to seek support, having a quiet space in school for mental health breaks, developing articles for newsletters, and putting posters and flyers in school washrooms.

Patty Cornwall is the SchoolsPlus Facilitator for Annapolis County and helped to organize the event. She says the feedback on the day has been very positive, and the participants now have the tools and support to be leaders and mental health champions in their home schools.

“It was a phenomenal day. The students that attended were outstanding. The adult participants have told us that students were engaged and active throughout the day. Each school presented amazing ideas on how they would bring the information back and spread the message. Principals are saying their staff are motivated and inspired to support students and their activities going forward.”

The summit was organized as a partnership between AVRCE, the Nova Scotia Health Authority and SchoolsPlus of Annapolis, Kings and West hants, Family Matters Family Resource Centre, the Western Kings Community Health Board, and the Canadian mental Health Association (Kings County Branch) with support from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) as part of its national youth anti-stigma campaign.

 

 

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