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Talking mental health with MILE 5

A new Canadian Mental Health Association  (CMHA) pilot program, which targets students in Grades 7, 9 and 11, is creating positive discussions about mental wellness.

Five WSD schools are piloting the CMHA’s MILE 5 program this school year, including Andrew Mynarski V.C. School.

MILE 5 stands for Mental Illness Literacy Education – 5-Day Program; as the name implies, it is a weeklong school-based mental health promotion.

Students spend an hour a day over one week discussing aspects of mental wellness and health with a facilitator from the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“We go through examples and scenarios students might be experiencing,” said Taylor Demetrioff, the CMHA Youth Mental Health Promotion Worker who is visiting the pilot schools. “When we talk about mental health, it’s something we all have. There are ways we can take care of it or make it worse. And we can seek help for it if it is getting bad.”

“This is a very comprehensive program,” said Andrew Mynarski Guidance Counsellor Meghan Clements. “It follows a process that starts with understanding what mental health and wellness is, and moving away from the stigma of talking about it.”

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Cutline: Andrew Mynarski VC Guidance Counsellor Meghan Clements and the Canadian Mental Health Association's Taylor Demetrioff.

An important part of the program is discussing with students the stereotypes and misconceptions of what a person with a mental health issue acts and looks like.

Students are then able to meet with people who have suffered from depression, anxiety and other issues in their childhood.  The speakers are all trained over 10 weeks through the CMHA.

“These are people who have gone through their own mental health journey,” Ms. Clements said. “I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on the presentations and they are pretty powerful to watch, not only with the story that person is sharing, but how the students respond. It allowed students to see a face and let them know that mental health issues can affect anyone.”

Mr. Demetrioff said the program has several objectives.

“Increasing help-seeking behavior is a key goal. We definitely want kids reaching out if they are struggling with anything,” he said. “Another is breaking down stigma, and showing students that regardless of the mental health concern, you should be able to talk to someone about it. It’s no different than breaking your arm. You still need to get help.”

The program also shares mental health strategies and resources that students can access in times of need. This includes stresshacks.ca , a mental health website aimed at assisting youth and families and providing access to further information and resources. The site has a “Need Help Now” button that links to a list of 24-hour crisis lines in Manitoba.

“There’s a geo-locator that kind of works like Google Maps—no matter where you are in Manitoba, it will show the closest resources to you,” Mr. Demetrioff said.

Ms. Clement said that the program offered a message of hope for people struggling with mental health issues.

“There’s a lot of services out there and it can take time, but you can live a normal life,” she said. “It’s important for students to hear that.

“We feel lucky and honoured to have this opportunity. I’ve had amazing feedback from students and teachers.”

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