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Mental Health Monday: ‘Open Parachute’ program helps Okanagan students address mental health

Click to play video: 'Open Parachute program teaches teens mental health' Open Parachute program teaches teens mental health
Open Parachute program teaches teens mental health – Feb 1, 2021

A new youth mental health program that was piloted in Kelowna will hopefully be rolled out across the entire Okanagan shortly.

“Open Parachute is geared at supporting students at grades 6 to 12,” said Carol- Ann Leidloff, director of instruction for School District No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap).

“There is a series of three different topic areas that they focus on, one is peer dynamics, another is awareness of cultural issues and the third is mental health,” Leidloff added.

The ‘Open Parachute’ curriculum includes different lessons at each grade level that consist of watching videos of students with lived experience.

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“Students that look the same, sound the same as the students in our school district, with the same kind of diversity, so there’s Indigenous students, there’s students of different racial or ethnic backgrounds,” Leidloff said.

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“They’re all talking about the importance of a mental health as well as come of the challenges that they have faced.”

In the videos, the students also discuss ways that they have addressed their feelings or started to reach out and cope with some of those challenges.

According to Dr. Hayley Watson, the clinical psychologist who founded the Open Parachute program, it’s these student video documentaries that are the program’s core strength.

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Because they are meant to create meaning-full classroom discussion amongst students about mental health and the issues that surround it.

“We are really showing them a curated journey where they get to hear ‘oh it’s normal to feel these thoughts and to think these things and to react in these ways’ and there’s a pathway through it,”  Watson explained.

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The ‘Open Parachute’ program is already in use in school district No. 23 (Central Okanagan) and No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap).

Watson says discussions are underway for the program to be adopted in No. 53 (Okanagan Similkameen) and in No. 22 (Vernon).

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“My hope for the program is that students start to understand what’s going on in their own mind so that they can make choices about how they face challenges,” Watson said.

If you would like more information on the ‘Open Parachute’ program visit here.

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