Blog post 

A lesson in mental health from a student perspective

People we’d like you to meet…

Logen Audet, Preston Beier, Brooklyn Hemeyer, Declan Lefebvre, Marcus Ohle, Aiden Presley, and Sydney Ward.

This group of Grade 9 students dedicated months of their time to learning more about mental health and mental illness so they could share this information with their peers.

The team of students from Blueberry School hosted a Mental Health Summit in May, where other Grade 9 students from surrounding schools were invited to attend a day-long session to understand more about mental health.

It included several presentations from people with a mental illness and mental health professionals, as well as several hands-on activities.

A highlight for the students was having Edmonton singer-songwriter Shay Esposito put a face to the issue and speak personally on her struggles with mental illness, anxiety and depression.

“Personal stories like hers definitely hit home more,” said Logen.

Sydney added Shay’s story is one many youth can relate to.

She said it’s important to understand the difference between poor mental health and mental illness. Someone who feels sad might not have depression, she said.

Through the group’s research and planning, Marcos learned there is a lot more of a stigma around mental illness than people realize — and more types of mental illnesses than they realize, too.

“It’s out there, and people are afraid to speak up, because others criticize it,” he said.

Declan said the group’s goal was to let their peers know they’re not alone.

“They always have someone to talk to, whether it be a teacher or parents or a professional,” he said.

Brooklyn noted that just because someone hasn’t been diagnosed with a mental illness, it doesn’t mean they can’t take steps to improve their quality of life. This can be done through healthy eating and drinking, physical activity, and brain stimulation through music and art.

Aiden emphasized that mental health isn’t just about a diagnosis.

“It’s about how healthy your mind is and how you treat it to keep it that healthy,” he explained.

Preston said it’s important for students to understand what they can do themselves to improve their mental health before turning to medication. Physical activity, diet, rest and relaxation exercises can play a big part in one’s overall health.

But Preston added there are people and services available to help when you really need it.

Learn more about the mental health supports that are available by calling Alberta Health’s Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642 or visiting www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/AMH-Mental-Health.html.