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EMSB MARKS MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK

MONTREAL, MAY 26, 2015 – The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) recently concluded a highly successful Mental Health Awareness Week during the first week of May.
   
A challenge was raised at the EMSB to have schools participate in activities in order to promote positive messages about mental health. Dr. Despina Vassiliou, an EMSB psychologist and coordinator of the Mental Health Resource Centre, notes that this year’s theme was “It Takes a Village…”- a campaign aimed at highlighting the connections we have with one another.  “Our connections to one another are a protective factor that strengthens our mental health,” says Dr. Vassiliou. “The EMSB’s Mental Health Resource Centre targeted six schools - three elementary and three high schools - to participate in the campaign, but more than double those participated! Schools across the EMSB rose to the occasion and produced some amazing activities, assemblies, and works of art. Students and staff from elementary to high school and at the school board level discussed mental health- a great success!”

Edward Murphy Elementary School

Edward Murphy Elementary School in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve embraced the spirit of the week by embarking upon a new initiative - a mural expressing the “It Takes a Village…” theme.  The beautiful mural involved an impressive tree with a positive message written on the trunk. Eventually each member of the school will have their handprints placed on the tree to symbolize leaves and how much stronger they are as a unified community.

Hampstead Elementary School

Hampstead Elementary School conducted various events to highlight the importance of our connections with one another. Spiritual Community Animator Joseph Monachino produced a beautiful video highlighting their talented students (https://vimeo.com/127162249) and organized an assembly to launch the week’s activities around the theme.

St. Gabriel Elementary School

Six Grade 6 students at St. Gabriel Elementary School in Pointe St. Charles created a "Positivity Chain" with their ERC teacher Marie Alexiou, who explained: "We asked our Grade six students what they were most proud of, what they thought they did well, and what qualities they liked most about themselves”. This positivity chain represents the idea that the way we see ourselves can change our overall outlook, and how a little positivity can go a long way! St. Gabriel did not stop there; they also held Kindness Day. Every student was asked to perform at least one act of kindness and tell someone about it.

John Caboto Academy

Prior to May 4, the students at John Caboto Academy in Ahuntsic worked together to make components to put into a mural in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week. The Kindergarten students made butterflies out of hands symbolizing helping hands (how we help one another). Cycle 1 students created various types of flowers, which represented different types of people, whereas the Cycle 2 & 3 students created rays of sunshine representing acts of kindness that brings warmth to everyone in their village, and makes the village stronger and healthier. All of these components were combined into a beautiful mural for everyone to see.  The mural was unveiled at a school assembly, at which time it was highlighted that acts of kindness, even one as small as a smile, can have an impact on their village. Following the assembly Cycle 3 students participated in mindfulness sessions (the .b program offered by MindSpace) to build their coping skills (another protective factor for stronger mental health). Students and staff were challenged to perform and acknowledge smiles and acts of kindness throughout the week.

Michelangelo International School

At a school assembly at Michelangelo International Elementary School in RDP, Spiritual Community Animator Elizabeth Pellicone and school psychologist Janet Perlis spoke to an enthusiastic gathering of students. They explained how everyone is connected to build healthy relationships conducive to a safe and secure mentally healthy environment. Students at Michelangelo learn consistently and effectively, through their IB Learner Profile attributes to communicate their thoughts and feelings and caring for each other. Teachers listen to their students carefully and model such attributes of the Learner Profile. Fun and amusing activities took place during Mental Health Week ranging from Zumba and singing to many art and writing activities. Everyone was encouraged to perform acts of kindness and discussed how to deal with anger, growing happy feelings recognizing who is part of their support system in school and at home. Thanks to all of their work there are rays of sunshine all over the school.

Westmount Park Elementary School

Grade 1 students in Natalie Martyniak’s class at Westmount Park Elementary School, accepted the five minute challenge and discussed who is important in their lives and why. They put together a collage of their thoughts and produced a beautiful image with a great deal of meaning.

James Lyng High School

At James Lyng High School in St. Henri, guidance counsellor Mandy Moreno created a bulletin board for students to highlight Mental Health Awareness Week. They also had a presentation from an organization named S.I.L.K., which stands for Sexual Information Leads to Knowledge, and is associated with CAEO Quebec (Canadian Association for Education and Outreach). James Lyng students heard from trained volunteers and discussed issues regarding gender identity, as well as information was shared to reduce homophobia and increase awareness and empathy for those struggle with their gender or sexual identity.

John F. Kennedy High School

Announcements were made to highlight Mental Health Awareness Week at John F. Kennedy High School in St. Michel. Students also gave up their free time to participate in a yoga class and in a guided meditation led by Spiritual Community Animator Aaron Durocher. Students learned about yoga, meditation and mindfulness.

Lester B. Pearson High School

At Lester B. Pearson High School in Montreal North, activities took place during lunchtime in the plaza area. Student Council placed posters around the school with positive messages/inspirational quotes written on them.  Moreover, Student Council posted on social media different famous role models who have overcome a mental illness.  They also used Facebook and Twitter to promote awareness for an entire week.  In addition, there were inspirational quotes playing on the Plaza television. Some of the specific activities included a number of game shows, such as “Stat’s What It’s All About, aimed at sharing share important facts and statistics regarding Mental Health concerns as it relates to youth and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) community.  Since food and beverages are central to many cultures as a source of connecting with others and providing comfort, Spiritual Community Animator Elizabeth Pellicone and student volunteers handed out home-made lemonade to students and staff members in cups that depicted positive statements.  “Doodle Your Worries” involved a mural created with a two-piece canvas in the Plaza with “It Takes A Village…” written on it and “#LBPLetsTalk” underneath. The canvases will be placed in the school as a reminder of this day and of the coming together in raising awareness within the Lester B. Pearson community.

Marymount Academy International

Marymount Academy International in NDG kicked off Mental Health Awareness week with a school wide assembly. Students entered the cafeteria to upbeat, positive music that put smiles on their faces. Guidance Counsellor Elyssa Feldman engaged the students in an interactive discussion about mental health focusing on the main theme, from which a group of students created a beautiful power point presentation. Students learned about five different protective factors which each focused on gratitude and support. They also heard about different activities related to this theme that would be available to them over lunchtime during Mental Health Awareness Week. Students enjoyed a “Make you smile music” lunch with a deejay, a positive post-it activity where students sent positive messages to their peers (led by Linda Luca, Spiritual and Community Animator), and the Marymount Mural where students wrote personal gratitude messages on a mural in the cafeteria.  

Rosemount High School

For Mental Health Awareness Week, the school undertook a gratitude mural. They also held Zumba sessions at lunch time twice during the week (Tuesday & Wednesday). Free fruit was distributed during recess on one of the days.

Royal West Academy

Royal West Academy in Montreal West rose to the challenge and highlighted mental health during the entire week. Daily announcements on the subject were made on their PA system. Students also created gratitude graffiti – a mural depicting people they are grateful for, a wellness wall and a mindful mandala –coloring or creating mandalas are a very relaxing and soothing activity that can help one re-center themselves.

Vincent Massey Collegiate

The guidance counsellors of Vincent Massey Collegiate in Rosemount, Jaimie Dimopoulos and Catherine Roquet, organized a gratitude graffiti activity that resulted in an impressive mural. For the activity students were asked to write the name of someone, or something they were grateful for. This mural is now on display in one of the school hallways. Ms. Glowa, the art teacher, also took up the challenge with her secondary 2 students. She asked her students to take a picture of what happiness meant to them, and write a short description of what the picture represented/how it made them feel. The result was impressive and now decorates a hallway.

Vezina  Alternative High School

At Vezina Alternative High School in Pointe St. Charles animated by Dynamix. Fun was had by all! Other activities involved the showing and discussion of short films primarily about different people's experiences living with mental illness. There was a poetry writing session on how to stay healthy,  a discussion with the girls’ group regarding the stigma surrounding mental illness,  a board of positive post its, a cheerful chain  link (a coloured piece of paper in the shape of a chain link expressing something that the student is good at or enjoys doing) was introduced. All pieces were glued together then decorated the school. Finally, a Wellness Chart for Youth was created by students listing activities that make them feel better.  

Administrative Head Office

At the EMSB head office, various staff enjoyed an entertaining but very informative talk by CJAD 800 talk show host and psychologist Dr. Sydney Miller. He shared the importance of social connections to our mental health. Starting the mini-workshop was Eleni Giannakas, a Laurier Macdonald Secondary V student who was brave enough to stand up and share with everyone her battles with mental illness and how those around her have been and continue to be a support to her. It was a moving way to end the week!

“We extend our gratitude to everyone who participated and hope that we all continue to be open about mental health and illness,” said Dr. Vassiliou.

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Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213
E-mail: mcohen@emsb.qc.ca