Thursday, April 25, 2013

What the Students Have to Say...

"Doing what we can to erase the stigma on mental health is important because, if we succeed in doing that people will not be afraid of being called crazy if they admit that they have an illness.  If there is no stigma more people will feel free to get the kind of help that they need to get better." - Naomi

"I think doing this project was important because we are trying to help get rid of the stigma around mental health. If there is more awareness about it, people who have it could know they’re not alone. There would be a better chance of people getting help if they weren't scared of the stigma, and they would be able to learn more about mental health." - Dawn

"I feel that getting mental illness more noticed is important because it is a very serious topic and so many people are affected by mental illness. There is a negative stigma towards mental illness and a lot of rumors that aren’t true. I feel that by making this video we are doing our part to get rid of some of the stigma and let people know that these rumors are not true. It is ok to get help. People need to know that they are not weird because they have a mental illness, it’s an illness just like any other illness and it is time for it to start being taken seriously." - Sam

"Mental illness is nothing to hide. It is not the cover to your book of life, it is merely a few sentences maybe a paragraph. It does not define who you are, who you want to be, or who you’re going to be. That’s up to you, and what you decide to do about it.

But why is this important? Its important to know you aren't alone, you aren't crazy and it can get better. It’s important to know that there are people who won’t judge you, who believe in the cause of bringing mental illness to light. And even if it is indirectly, they believe in you. It’s not just important to remember, but it is necessary to know no one on Earth is perfect, but our flaws make us even more amazing people. A mental illness is just one thing in your life, or someone else’s, that doesn't have to define you, but enhance you. You can work with it, you can get past this and you can find help. " - Isabell

"Talking is crucial! Talking about it can help erase the stigma associated with a mental illness. The stigma is a strong barrier that holds people back from talking about their illness." - Ashlyn

"What we’re doing is important, because people shouldn't be criticized for having a mental illness! They aren't weird or strange in anyway! They’re people, like everyone else!" - Kelton

"This project made me take a step back and reflect on a lot of things including myself. During this project I learned a lot! Now I can see that mental illness is everywhere and it affects a lot of people. It is important to know that other people have mental illness, you’re not alone." - Ferron  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Video

We could not wait to post this any longer!  Here it is! The video was filmed, written and edited by a grade nine class.  They will be debuting it at our school during Mental Health Week, May 6-12, 2013.  A mobile compatible version of the video with be posted ASAP!  Please check back soon.  Sorry for any inconvenience.  In the meantime, it is definitely worth finding a desktop computer to watch!

The Evolution of the Project

Once the current event was chosen, the work began.  The students decided they wanted to produce something to help eliminate the stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental illness and mental health.  They were going to create a video and share it with the world.  The video would focus on the issues other young people their age live with and face on a daily basis.  Their research was guided by this.  To go along with the research they were doing, we told our school's FSLW (Family-School Liaison Worker).  We knew she would be a great resource.  She quickly became a partner of the project.

Word of what we were doing slowly started to get out.  I, of course, bragged a bit about it.  People seemed interested.  Some of the students told their parents.  They were interested.  It would be our new partner, however, who would help spread the word and connect us with Alberta Health Services.

We would quickly gain a new partner!  The Mental Health Liaison from a local clinic was interested in what we were doing and wanted to help out.  She has been a source of knowledge and support through her visits to the school and communication through email and phone calls.  The project quickly became more than a video.  She challenged the class to share what they were doing with the rest of the junior high.  Quickly, the class decided they would share the video with the whole school at an assembly during Mental Health Awareness week.  They would create a display for a bulletin board by the junior high classes and they would lead some activities about mental health and mental health awareness to be shared with the junior high class.  What once was a current events assignment quickly turned into what would be a whole afternoon event; completely led by those grade nine students.  Word of the project did not stop there, however.  Our new partner continued to pass it on.

We were contacted by the coordinator of an Alberta Health Services newsletter that shares stories that take place within schools in the central region of our province.  She was interested in the story and wanted to help share what was happening.  She offered to do a story and share the video link through the newsletter.    Again, not long after speaking with her, she helped to spread the word as well.  We were contacted by the Communications Adviser.

After speaking with the Communications Adviser, we were excited.  She wanted to do a story that would be in a publication that goes out to all Alberta Health Services facilities in the central zone of the province, as well as doctor's offices, grocery stores and other public places.  She interviews myself and a couple of the students.  For a small class in a small school, this was great! The more people that heard about it, the better! If it could help even one person, this project would be a success.

How Our Project Began

As a teacher, I am often provided with situations or examples in which my students make me step back and say, "Wow"!  This project is one of those examples.  Initially, this was a current events project for our Social Studies 9 class.  The class is small but they are dedicated.  I wanted them to do a student led current events project focusing on something that is happening in their world.  The instructions were simple:

  1. Choose a current event.
  2. Research it and build a presentation to share ideas and perspectives on the event.
The class was allowed to work alone, with a partner or with a group.  I wanted to leave it as open as possible. I never would have guessed it would turn into what it did!

As a class, we had talked about a few of the stories and events that were taking place.  The class was intrigued by Bell Let's Talk Day.  This would end up being their current event and the inspiration for this project.  They decided to work as one group.  Their research began immediately.  We watched one of the many excellent stories put on by Bell and CTV.  Needless to say, it was emotional.  Tears were hard to hold back.  After this, there was no question.  There would be no turning back on this project!