October 7, 2016 7:16 pm
Updated: October 8, 2016 12:36 am

Students at Vernon high school encouraged to talk mental health

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A Vernon high school has become the first in British Columbia to join a national initiative aimed at starting conversations about mental health and ultimately preventing suicides.

As part of the program, W.L. Seaton Secondary School recently installed a special yellow bench in a school hallway.

And it’s more than just a place to share a laugh. The bench is also a physical reminder to staff and students to talk to each other about mental health.

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The idea came from the graduating class of 1996. While planning their 20 year reunion, they discovered one of their former classmates had taken his own life.

“They talked about how if he had had cancer, if he had passed away from some type of disease or a car accident, they would have all been talking about it. But because it was a mental illness they weren’t talking about it and they wanted to change that,” said principal Jackie Kersey.

That’s when they came across The Friendship Bench initiative, which aims to put the benches in schools as a way to start conversations on mental health and ultimately prevent suicides.

The alumni raised the money themselves to put the bench in their alma mater.

The idea being that by connecting with each other, simmering mental health issues can be addressed before they get worse.

“Suicide is 100 per cent preventable. We are hoping by talking about our mental health [and] by encouraging everyone to take care of their mental health that we can make it a lot less common,” said Kersey.

Local help is available for suicide prevention. The Interior Crisis Line Network can be reached toll-free at 1-888-353-CARE(2273).

Interior Health encourages those in need of help to reach out to local mental health services, their family doctor, emergency services, or to visit the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC’s website.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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