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Cambie hosts mental health awareness event

By Hannah Scott

Published 2:02 PDT, Fri May 20, 2022

Last Updated: 3:43 PDT, Fri May 20, 2022

Twice a year, Richmond students and staff come together to talk about mental health awareness and connect with care providers.

Like so many activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the event—Beyond the Blues—hasn’t been able to run for several years. Early this month, the district celebrated its return at Cambie secondary.

The event cycles through all 10 Richmond high schools, with two different schools hosting each year, says Connie Easton, the district’s coordinator of mental health, social and emotional learning, and counselling.

“We involve youth in organizing it,” Easton explains. “In each of the schools where it runs, we pull in the school’s mental wellness group, a group of students who’s interested in mental health and mental health promotion.”

The event is also a collaboration with Foundry Richmond, with posters displaying scannable QR codes that lead to Foundry’s website.

Easton says while resources and information can be found online, the human connection is also important. 

“We’ve all been so isolated, and now that people are able to go in-person for supports and those kinds of things, actually meeting the real person has been one of the reasons why we did this,” she says. “So if a student goes into Foundry and sees the same clinician they saw at school, there’s a sense of familiarity and welcoming (when) they recognize them.”

These events also allow the student voice to shine through, ensuring that the district is meeting students’ needs as much as possible. 

“These kinds of events allow them to discuss with frontline providers what they’re looking for, and give us a sense of what might be missing in terms of supports,” says Easton.

Two members of Cambie’s mental wellness group—Elvin Allado and Priya Mahil—are also part of the district’s new youth mental health advisory group. While that group is still in its building phase, having just started up this year, it’s modelled on the district’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) advisory committee.

The youth mental health advisory group includes Grade 11 and 12 students from different schools who want to advocate for mental wellness. For one project, they collaborated with school librarians and put Foundry stickers in library books that might be triggering or upsetting to some student readers. This information allows students to reach out for help if they are struggling.

The students in the group are also creating social media accounts to share mental health stories, sleep tips and other healthy habits, and ways of finding support.

“The work that we try to do as a group has to be very grounded,” says Easton. “I want them to come away feeling like they’re doing something meaningful and making a difference, not that we’re just talking.”

Easton says the Cambie event had good attendance, with students able to collect stamps in a passport that was then turned in for prize draws of T-shirts and gift card. 

The next Beyond the Blues event will take place in October.

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