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Mental health awareness and support ‘center stage’ at student organized conference

High school students in Halifax starting conversations on mental health
WATCH: Halifax West students organized the 4th annual mental health and wellness conference to break the stigma. Alexa MacLean has more.

For the 1,000 plus students that attend Halifax West High School, mental health is a conversation that is being placed on the forefront of the minds of youth and adults more and more each year.

Especially, with the high school hosting an annual conference on Thursday where students have a full day to learn, engage and appreciate the different realms of mental health and how to best access supports when needed.

“It’s definitely something that is becoming much more talked about, which is really great and especially here at our school we’re having this day to spark that conversation and allow the conversation to continue out within us, the different staff and teachers throughout the year,” Lucas Arab said, a grade 12 student at Halifax West.

READ MORE: Early detection is key in youth mental health: Canadian Mental Health Association

The Mental Health and Wellness conference is in its fourth year at Halifax West.

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The student’s organized initiative connects youth with different resources ranging from professional healthcare workers, to therapy dogs – all in the name of increasing mental health awareness.

“Managing your mental health isn’t something you learn in school and a lot of us aren’t comfortable, or in a safe space to talk about it with our parents or friends. So, it’s great to learn about the resources and different coping strategies for dealing with your mental health here, in a safe and supportive area,” Victoria Purcell said, a grade 12 student at Halifax West.

Dorado
Students were introduced to Dorado. An Accredited Facility Dog who is trained to work with and support children and youth who have experienced violence, trauma and abuse. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

READ MORE: Golden lab celebrates his birthday and one year of helping support traumatized kids

According to statistics from the Canadian Mental Health Association, only 1 out of 5 children who are in need of mental health services receive them and estimations show between 10-20 per cent of Canadian youth are impacted by a mental health disorder.

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All the more reason these Halifax West students are pushing to have the conversation around mental health normalized, instead of stigmatized.

“Mental health is something that we all have whether it’s mental illnesses, or mental health on an everyday basis, we all have it and there’s a lot of stigma that surrounds it still, even though as a society we’ve been trying to talk about it more and more,” Rebecca Dib said, one of the conference organizers and a grade 12 student.

“So, organizing this event allows presenters and professionals from our community to come and speak to our students.”

READ MORE: Teen mental health advocate Zach Hofer launches new fundraising initiative

Arab hopes to see the day when accessing services to treat mental health illness and disorders is as commonplace as seeking treatment for a physical ailment.

“If we are injured, or have a problem with our physical health we ask for help and we try and fix it and that response needs to become automatic for our mental health. As we have a mental health, just as well we have a physical health,” Arab said.

The Nova Scotia Mental Health Crisis Telephone Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support those who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis please call , call 902-429-8167 or 1-888-429-8167.