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High school for teens with mental health, addiction issues opens doors

WATCH: Quest Collegiate is for teens struggling with mental health and addiction issues. It is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada. Lama Nicolas reports.

Quest Collegiate and Recovery Centre is believed to be Canada first school for teens struggling with mental health and addiction issues.

”You hear the pain and you just want to help them,” said school founder Eileen Shewen. ”They spend three months, four months, sometimes 30 days in a treatment program, however long. And then they go home, back to school, start cycle all over again.”

Shewen says she was shocked when she learned there was nothing like Quest Collegiate available.

It’s not a new idea. Similar schools have been in the states since the 80’s. What really motivated Shewen was her own experience with her 16-year-old daughter who changed schools five times by grade 10. Her daughter says she suffers from anxiety and depression.

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One teen said life at home in Nova Scotia was tough, and he couldn’t turn to his friends or teachers.

”I smoked weed everyday,” he said. “ I was embarrassed, didn’t know how they would react if I told them I was depressed, had bad anxiety drug addiction [so I] kept it to myself.”

Students who arrive at the school usually come from a treatment centre. They need to be clean and have to stick to their recovery program. The school follows Ontario curriculum and students learn at their own pace. Qualified counselors also lead group therapy sessions. Shewan said it’s a safe place for teens.

“We don’t judge them,” said Shewen. “We don’t label them. If they’re having a bad day and need to walk out of the classroom, they walk out.”

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The school is mostly run by volunteers and relies on donations. They need $750,000 a year to keep it running, and they’re hoping to get that funding from the provincial government.

Shewen argues this model of education is needed, especially since one in five teens struggle with mental health and addiction issues.

“Think of all the social burden that comes with kids if we don’t help them get to where they want to go now” she said. “Wait until they’re 40 and have spent half their life navigating though public agencies trying to get somewhere.”

Some teens are boarded at the schools, others come for the day. The doors opened in February, with only a few students. But applications are already pouring in from across the country.

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