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Thousands more bells will ring in N.B. schools for mental health awareness, says advocate

MONCTON – Thousands more bells will be ringing at schools across New Brunswick this fall.

The Dots N.B. Ring a Bell Program is expanding.

“From kindergarten they are learning what is mental health, those conversations are starting,” said Youth Mental Health Advocate Maureen Bilerman.

Bilerman launched the Ring a Bell program in New Brunswick schools four years ago, after she struggled to access help for her mentally ill daughter.

“Either the resources weren’t there or the system was so disconnected that we couldn’t maneuver through it no matter how hard we tried.”

Since then she says she’s been fighting to improve youth access to mental health services.

This week, she attended a provincial mental health forum in Moncton, where hundreds of stakeholders gathered to address gaps in mental health services across the province. Bilerman says, while access is improving, the province still has a long way to go to streamline access to mental health support for youth.

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“It’s only one in five that will ever get the treatment and services they need. so we really I think have a responsibility as community members to really make sure that we are having conversation and participating in events,” she said.

Bilerman believes there is better to start than in the schools.

On December 4, 10,000 more bells will ring out at 289 schools across the province for the Ring a Bell program.

Cindy Miles is coordinator for Dots N.B., and says for the first time, teachers will join in.

“We have 80,000 stickers that went out this year so the staff all want to wear these stickers and it’s really a great symbol of unity for the students that are at the schools,” she said.

She says each of the province’s 49 MLAs have also been asked to step out of the legislature and into the schools to support the campaign.

“That is where we are going to break the stigma and that’s where we are going to break down barriers is when we are all working together as a community,” she said.

“From kindergarten all the way through to high school they are starting to learn the signs and symptoms. What do I do with a friend in distress, what can I do with my stress more effectively?”

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