By Lindsay Whelan
More than 400 individuals gathered on May 6, 2015 for St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation’s third annual “A Mental Health Morning." It was there that “weMATTER: Mental Health Team Leadership” was presented with the inaugural “Youth Spirit of Hope award”.
“A Mental Health Morning” is an event to support the Mental Health & Addiction Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. This award honours and celebrates a youth group in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant community that has made significant contribution in one or more of the following areas:
• BUILDING awareness of mental health and addiction within our region;
• REDUCING the stigma associated with mental health and addiction;
• ADVANCING knowledge in the area of mental health or addiction research;
• ADVOCATING for positive change relating to mental health and addiction;
• PROVIDING support or treatment to people living with mental illness and/or addiction, their families, and/or caregivers.
weMATTER has surpassed this criteria as a student-led, teacher-facilitated program designed to raise awareness and understanding of mental illness in the high school community within and outside of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB). It was through a partnership between the Peer Mentors club at Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School and the Celtic Circle Student Leadership club at Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School that weMATTER was established.
Both groups work collaboratively to address issues related to teen mental health. Their combined efforts and passion have led the groups to present together at provincial and national conferences, to provide in-service to schools within and outside of our Board, and to provide peer-to-peer training using an apprenticeship model. Both groups have demonstrated individual and collaborative evidence of significant impact in our high school community and beyond as we continue to align this work with the HWCDSB’s 2014-2015 Student Mental Health Strategy.
“We share this award with our school communities because it is only with the support of our staff and students that we are able to effectively address teen mental health,” said Marisa Mariella, Head of Student Services at Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School and creator of both the Celtic Circle Student Leadership and Peer Mentors.
“Although the stigma that surrounds mental illness is so deeply rooted in our society, it still fills us with such hope to be associated with so many other people dedicated to this same cause. We are truly humbled to receive this recognition by the St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation as they are such leaders in the area of mental health care within the community.”
The event also featured a keynote address by Silken Laumann, four-time Olympian and mental health advocate. The students from weMATTER were not only impressed with her determination to overcome hardships in her training to reach the Olympics, but also moved by her openness to talk about her journey with mental illness.
“Hearing Silken Laumaan share her journey with mental illness reminded me that anyone can overcome a mental illness despite the amount of bumps during the road of recovery. Silken taught me that it's okay to ask for help and sometimes we just need a reminder from others that we can't do everything on our own,” shared Natalie Horvatic, Grade 12 student at Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School and member of Celtic Circle Student Leadership.
For more information regarding “A Mental Health Morning” event, please visit, http://www.stjoesfoundation.ca
For more information regarding the “weMATTER: Mental Health Team Leadership” club, please contact Marisa Mariella, Head of Student Services, Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School at, email@example.com