Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Invite a Child Psychologist Into Your School!

This year our School Climate Team decided to plan a Mental Health Awareness month in February 2015. We have had many incredible events each led by different members on our team. Speaking of our team, we have active members from all facets of our school from teacher representatives in each division, parent reps, student reps and even our own principal sitting on the team. We have grown in size as more and more individuals want to take part and become part of our team. One of our very awesome events happened today. Our Junior rep: Lara Loseto and our parent rep: Melanie Calandra invited a guest speaker Dr. J. Cooperman to do two Q & A sessions with our Junior and Intermediate students. Dr. Cooperman collected questions from our students ahead of time and customized a short presentation and opportunity to answer student questions to her specific audience members. I followed up with my class after the event and the feedback I received was quite interesting.

I'm not sure about you, but when I was growing up, when someone said ''you need therapy'' that was considered a HUGE insult! Basically if someone told you that you needed therapy they would be implying that you are broken and need to be fixed. Well, for many of my students they didn't even know what the word ''stigma'' meant. So, as a class we unpacked this heavy term and talked about the deep-rooted beliefs and notions that have existed generation after generation around people who have a mental illness.

My students shared a lot of feedback after meeting our guest psychologist. For example, they felt less intimidated by having the opportunity to talk to one! They also really appreciated learning about the different kinds of therapy that a child could participate in. Something I thought was one of the biggest take-aways was the fact that my students do not actually believe going and getting therapy is considered a "bad thing''. In fact, they think the exact opposite! A few students mentioned they really enjoyed when Dr. Cooperman talked about gradual desensitization towards a phobia. This is great because it shows my students are feeling empowered! Some other general feelings that my students had after the experience include feeling: reassured, informed, relieved and that they have a place to go if they need it.  Final thoughts from my students were that they felt their peers at HBPS were becoming more aware and that they were being put on the right path towards mental health. When I heard that boy, was I ever happy! To hear first hand from my students themselves, that our school improvement plan goals (reducing the stigma towards mental illnesses and spreading awareness around mental health topics) is being accomplished! Wow, what a spectacular day!

If you are interested in exposing your students to this sort of opportunity, get in touch with your local hospital. Our visiting psychologist works out of the Markham-Stouffville hospital as a Child Psychologist. 

Thanks for reading!

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