“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.” – Marianne Williamson
On May 3 close to 130 students from each of the Catholic secondary schools embodied this theme of light as they gathered at the Nicolas Mancini Centre in recognition of Mental Health Week.
Julie Angiolillo, Assistant Superintendent, began the session by asking the group, “Why do we have to talk about mental health?” Coming together as a community of faith, the students gathered to engage and learn how they can make a difference as the voice of the future. “Student voices are so critical,” she said. “You are the light.”
For the next few hours, students explored her question as they listened to speakers explain the various aspects associated with mental health.
Keynote speaker, Tom Cooper focused on the poverty crisis within Hamilton, and how it relates to mental health. Cooper is the Director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and Coordinator of the Ontario Living Wage Network.
An “overwhelming 82 percent of individuals who are homeless self-identified as having a mental health issue,” he said. It’s about “changing the conversation and bringing the community together to work collectively and break down stereotypes of poverty.”
On behalf of the Planning Team, made up of Student Success and Pathways Consultant, Colleen McPhee, Mental Health Lead, Jenny Athanasiou-Malisa and Co-op Placement Officer, Marilyn Presutti, their goal was to “raise awareness and make the connection between mental health and poverty. We really tried to bring a global issue to a Hamilton reality. It is so important to take care of ourselves as well as others.”
Students then broke out into smaller sessions where they were invited to learn about other various aspects that relate to mental health. These sessions included: Credit Counselling, TAMI (Talking About Mental Illness), Social Media, and Christian Medication.
The day wrapped up with Brain Gym representative and EduK Instructor and Consultant, Margaret Harris, who led the group in a series of movements and exercises that stimulated the senses. They were meant to be “energy and mental alertness enhancing,” fueling the brain and promoting inner peace.
Though each talk was dedicated to a unique topic, they all linked to mental health and the promotion of healthy living.
As the event came to a close, students were encouraged to use their newfound knowledge to shine a light at their schools and in their communities. As Angiolillo noted, “mental health is a part of us, it’s not who we are.” It’s important to keep the conversation going so that we can end the stigma associated with mental health and empower our youth.
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” – Marianne Williamson