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Martensville School Bringing Awareness to Mental Health Support For Youth

by Shanine Sealey

Valley Manor Elementary School (VMS) is helping to shed some light on the importance of mental health not only in our youth, but in all of us. The Valley Manor Student Community Council hosted an informational event that saw Judy Jaunzems-Fernuk, an Educator & Mental Health Practitioner with Prairie Sky Education Personal and Professional Support Services, speak about how parents and educators can help encourage proper stress management within our youth in order to teach them healthy coping techniques when it comes to mental health.

The event was open to VMS families, as well as families from the other schools within Martensville. VMS Principal Garth Harrison spoke at the beginning of the event, noting that, “At a time in our lives where information, much of it online, is coming at us at what seems like a million miles an hour, we need to take time to stop and talk and clarify some things for ourselves and the people in the world around us.” Harrison encouraged those in attendance to take this information into the world and pass along Jaunzems-Fernuk’s information to their children’s schools.

Some key points that Jaunzems-Fernuk covered included discussing stress within our lives, managing emotions and managing our stress. “There is no way to support our young people if we can’t get right with ourselves and manage our own stress,” she explained.

As a mother of three, Jaunzems-Fernuk stated that the biggest teachers in her life have been her children. Additionally, Jaunzems-Fernuk has much experience as an educator and within mental health support.

The reality that today’s youth is facing is a scary one and Jaunzems-Fernuk provided statistics that put just how scary it is into perspective. “Today’s children may be the first generation to have poorer health and shorter lifespans than their parents,” was one point Jaunzems-Fernuk made, which was information provided by the Heart and Stroke Foundation: Report on the Health of Canadians 2017. “It is up to us to learn about and understand mental health and wellbeing and take that forward to help our kids to be successful as well. We have to manage our stress in order to help our young people manage their stress with school, technology, at home, everywhere. We can’t protect them from everything, so we need to arm them with the tools they need to be successful themselves, despite the adversity coming at them,” Jaunzems-Fernuk said.

Part of this is teaching kids that reaching out for help when it comes to mental health support is okay. “We need to get ahead of this in prevention and intervention before a crisis happens and start making mental health part of the conversation.”

Stress is a normal part of our daily lives, but Jaunzems-Fernuk explained that it is when that stress turns into distress and burnout that it is time to be concerned. “Stress is purposeful. It motivates us and keeps us aware and in tune to what is happening. Learning to manage that stress to prevent it from becoming something more is a process. We have all experienced a high level of stress at some point in our lives. Those thoughts can swirl us into a drain, but our thoughts can also interrupt this process and prevent us from going down the drain. We have the power to decide how we will react.” Jaunzems-Fernuk continued to explain how we can take a negative event, have a positive or neutral reaction to it and create a positive or neutral outcome, reestablishing just how powerful our own thoughts can be.

The ability to use our thoughts to help prevent us from facing severe stress, which can lead to anger, depression and anxiety is not something that takes place over night. It is something that takes practice and it is up to us to learn what our triggers are and what we can do to help relieve those negative feelings whether it be through meditation, exercise, counselling, or another outlet that works for you.

Jauznems-Fernuk will be speaking with grade 6-8 students at VMS on Wednesday, September 25th and Tuesday, October 1st. Following the presentation to parents, numerous attendees contacted Jaunzems-Fernuk stating that this topic is of great importance within the community and requested that a mental health workshop be held on this subject. If this is something that you would be interested in seeing come to the community, please contact Judy Jaunzems-Fernuk at judy@prairieskyeducation.ca.

Photo: Judy Jaunzems-Fernuk, an Educator & Mental Health Practitioner spoke at VMS on Wednesday, September 18th

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