The Martensville High School SCC (School Community Council) hosted an evening of emotional wellness on Thursday, April 26th. Parents of Grade 8-12 students were invited to listen to guest presenters give insight on a variety of topics including; stress, anxiety, depression and share their personal experiences.
It became clear to the SCC that they needed to provide some support and resources to our youth in terms of emotional health after a survey was conducted at MHS. While there were many positive results with regard to participation in sports, positive behavior, and trying hard to succeed in their learning; it also became apparent that there is work to do in respect to emotional well-being. An astonishing 28% of students stated they had a moderate to high level of anxiety with the norm being 18%; while 27% indicated they had moderate to high level of anxiety with the norm being 19%. Additionally, the survey results showed that positive self-esteem is low among the students.
During the evening, the SCC also wanted to point out topics such as differentiating stress and anxiety, when and who to ask for help, as well as who to turn to when faced with these challenges. “As parents we are often the backbone of our kids’ support, so we decided to include a session for moms and dads to come out to hear these volunteers give advice, ask questions, and learn what tends to work and what generally doesn’t in terms of supporting our teens,” said Paula Johnston, on behalf of the SCC.
The evening consisted of two young adults sharing their stories about their struggles with teen anxiety, anxious thoughts and depression, the physical effects they dealt with, as well as not wanting to be in a social atmosphere. Some suggestions were to encourage your child to go out at least for a short period of time, and just push forward as best they can. A parent spoke of her anxiety as a young girl as well as helping her daughter deal with anxiety. She explained that anger can be a form of anxiety and added that “if you think your child has anxiety – please listen and talk to someone; a doctor, friend, teacher – anyone. Just make sure they don’t feel alone.”
Principal Paul McTavish spoke about the importance in addressing these issues and coming together as a community to get involved. The students at MHS had the opportunity to listen to the presenters share their experiences earlier that day.
Dawn Kellington, a counselor who runs emotional health and anxiety groups for youth within Saskatoon high schools shared tips on how to understand about emotional health in youth, some helpful techniques and ways to help parents support their kids. Some suggestions from the counselor were;
1. Validate their feelings & experiences. Anxiety does not discriminate and they need to know their feelings are real.
2. Recognize your child’s experiences of their anxiety can be different from other’s experiences. They are all unique.
3. Ask lots of questions and really listen to them. Come up with something that will work for them. View it the same as ‘hunger’ – Why am I hungry…how can I make myself not hungry? Also do not magnify it.
4. Don’t blame yourself as a parent or analyze the past. Sometimes there is a trigger that can cause it but that is not the case all of the time. 5. Be proactive and engaged. Address the situation now – it may go away or it may be something they will learn to live with and manage.
6. Seek skills on how to manage anxiety and depression such as accepting your feelings and find self-compassion.
7. Celebrate the ‘victories’. Help them remember their strengths; it shows they are brave and courageous.
8. Negative self-talk is very common with anxiety. Encourage them to think of more ‘true’ things.
9. Find Resources – check the library for guided meditations; phone apps like ‘headspace’ and ‘calm’ are one of many that can be very helpful.
10. Manage ‘Goal Setting’ and ‘Time Management’. These are great life skills to challenge anxiety.
11. Encourage creativity. Seek out healthy forms of fun such as sports, music, and journaling.
12. Let them know they are not alone and they have someone to talk to; school counselor, friend, doctor, psychiatrist, and don’t give up. Sometime you may have to try a few different people to find the one that can help you.
“I was really pleased with the work our SCC did to make the emotional wellness night a reality. I was also very impressed with the initiative the group showed in meeting a need of the community by hosting the evening and bringing awareness to this issue. The feedback we got from the people that attended was really positive,” MHS Principal McTavish said. “I think this is a conversation that needs to happen and I believe that the people in attendance felt some support by knowing there were others in the community who are facing similar issues. I am quite happy that people took advantage of this session. It’s a goal of ours to build community, and I think that these opportunities are one way to do that.”