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Mental health focused program launches at Holy Spirit School Division

Mental health-focused program launches at Lethbridge’s Holy Spirit School Division
WATCH ABOVE: Grant money from Alberta Health Services is making a new program focused on mental health available for students at Holy Spirit School Division in Lethbridge. Quinn Campbell reports.

A new program within the Holy Spirit School Division is focusing on mental health.

“It’s really looking at working with kids and building capacity in teachers, building capacity in parents around what it means to be mentally healthy,” Michelle MacKinnon, Director of Support Services with Holy Spirit School Division, said.

The initiative is being made possible through the Mental Health Capacity Building Grant organized by Alberta Health Services.

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“So often in our society, when we think mental health, a person’s mind automatically goes to mental illness — it’s two totally different things. You go to the doctor and get your physical health checked, but we need to start to normalize getting our mental health checked, too,” she added.

The additional funding also means new support. Superintendent Chris Smeaton said new staff positions are being added.

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“We will have a manager that will look after them, overseeing the entire project,” Smeaton said. “Then we will have another four Family First Facilitators that will be situated in our schools and then another 0.8 [full-time equivalent position] that will be able to support schools and programs in our other schools.”

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Students of all ages will take part in the program. The aim is for students to have a better understanding of what mental health is and how to deal with emotions and challenges.

“This project will go a long way to helping kids understand that just because you face something tough doesn’t mean that it’s insurmountable,” added Smeaton.

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The program will not only educate students, but parents and staff, too, hoping to make all those involved in a child’s development have the proper tools and know where to go for help.

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“The long term goal is that the stigma will be reduced, that kids are not afraid to talk about mental health,” MacKinnon said.

Something she said we should all be working towards.