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Montreal teacher starts mental health program ‘ROAR’ to help immigrants

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WATCH: Montreal teacher starts mental health program "ROAR" to help immigrants – Jun 13, 2021

High School of Montreal Adult Education Centre Teacher Allyson Deodath starts every English class dancing with her students. The activity combines two of her favourite things — teaching and dancing. The teacher says she’s blessed to continue doing both after suffering two brain aneurysms in 2019.

Holding back tears, she told Global News, “after I survived I realized, I wanted to help before I die. So I started the foundation ROAR to help my students.”

Deodath created the mental health program ROAR (Reaching Out And Relating) with her daughter Isis.

The adult education teacher has taught immigrants for a better part of 40 years. With a second chance at life, she says their underlying mental health issues inspired her to start the program.

“It can be from simply stress over the move, trying to find an apartment, fitting in, learning both languages, how to find a job,” said Deodath.

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Read more: Young, anglophone men among those in most mental distress due to pandemic in Montreal: survey

ROAR holds weekly meetings where they simply talk to one another. The gathering turned virtual during the pandemic, a time that took its toll on the mental health of participants.

Deodath is not only a teacher but a friend to people starting their lives in a new country, a place where they don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language.

“An immigrant has a lot of problems, everything is changed and it’s too hard. I think when someone immigrates she or he started a new life from zero. Allyson, I think for me, give me hope that the life is continue,” said Mina Sabeghi, a former student.

Read more: A year into the pandemic, mental health workers face burnout and soaring demands

High School of Montreal Adult Education Centre Principal Harry Michalopoulos told Global the effect Deodath has on getting students to open up just by listening is profound.

“They want to speak with her because she’s genuine and they know that they can talk to somebody and then Allyson can refer them if they need more professional health,” he said.

Deodath hopes to have a network of licensed professionals to help her expand ROAR. Through the mental health program, she’s realized that we all want the same thing: to be loved and accepted for who we are. The teacher hopes her program makes more people feel that way.

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