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"Gaels for Gaels" initiative builds support network for Cathedral students

A new movement at Cathedral High School is putting student well-being at the forefront of school priorities.

Led by the student body, "Gaels for Gaels" is a new initiative that ensures every student has the tools to support their mental health, in and outside the classroom.

"It's not about talking about illness. It's about being physically, mentally and spiritually healthy," said Vice-Principal John Pusztay. "This is not simply an event. It's a movement that we're going to live as long as we are here."

At a kick-off assembly on May 30, student representatives presented the City of Hamilton's "5 Ways to Mental Well-Being" model as a resource peers could use to maintain a healthy mind and body. These include: Connect, Take Notice, Keep Learning, Give Back and Be Active.

Serving as a daily reminder, every staff member and student received a "Gaels for Gaels" shirt with the '5 Ways' imprinted across.

"Every time you wear that shirt, you are saying to one another, 'I am here for you. I support you. You are my family and family supports family,'" said Pusztay.

Joining in on the movement was Cathedral alumnus and professional photographer Steve Haining who encouraged Cathedral students to find their passion and use it to fuel positivity.

For him, despite a rocky upbringing, photography allowed him to build himself up, tell his story and give back to the community in a meaningful way.

"If you look at your shirt, there's a list of things right now that show what positive mental health is. For me, the only thing that ever stayed in my life, during my troubles, during my successes, was unknowingly following these things."

Adding to the conversation was Teacher Justin Leroux, before introducing his CHS Glee Club's performance.

"Bad things are going to happen, but it's how we are going to allow that to control us."

"What's going to make us happy? That, we are in control of. That can be dealt with exercise, going to church, hanging out with friends, going for a walk, saying 'I love you' to the people that matter most to you."