HTS Let's Talk! Starting the Conversation about Youth Mental Health

Melanie van de Water, Dean of Students
Our school community could not escape the buzz of activity happening last week during our third annual Wellness Week. Over the past few months, a dedicated team of Wellness Leaders in the Lower, Middle and Senior Schools collaborated on ideas to bring health and well-being to the forefront of our school community. The Wellness Leaders had the opportunity to meet with Michael Eisen, from the Youth Wellness Network, to discuss wellness, and also explore their own personal wellness journeys. From there, the leaders worked together to create activities for Wellness Week that would allow their peers to benefit from their training.

Lower School students focused on instilling confidence and encouraging kindness within their peer groups. During FLEX period in Middle School, students chose different wellness activities from smoothie making, to mindfulness, to getting outside for some fresh air. Senior Wellness Leaders were integral in running activities that focused on youth mental health, and created their own HTS Let’s Talk board for Senior School students to share their thoughts and ideas on wellness.    

Our Parents’ Guild supported Wellness Week by hosting Try it Tuesday outside the Dining Hall during lunchtime. Students had the opportunity to try new fruits and vegetables, and a variety of cold pressed juices. Kale has never tasted so good!

Another Wellness Week highlight included a visit from the St. John Ambulance therapy dogs and a crew of critters from Pawsitively Pets. Students had the opportunity to discuss pet therapy and experience a moment of calm while petting the furry friends. Many of the activities created some smiles and laughs however, balance is always necessary, and the more serious side of Wellness Week focused on the mental health of our students.

A team of speakers from YouthSpeak presented to our students in Grades 4 to 12. On that team were Brittany, Scott and Brendan who each shared their own personal journeys with mental health, and empowered our students with a toolkit that focused on their own mental health well-being. Their message was that everyone has mental health, and they stressed that while one in every five people struggles with issues such as anxiety and depression, there are always ways to look after oneself and to seek help from trained adults such as parents, teachers, health professionals and guidance counsellors. Students from each division had a chance to engage in small group workshops with the team where they had a chance to discuss issues including what makes a good friend, and the difference between physical and mental health. Senior School students had a chance to unpack some of the stressors they are facing as young people in today’s world. The YouthSpeak team struck a chord with our student community through their empathetic and experienced workshops.

For several years, HTS has supported Jack.org, a mental health organization that aims to end the stigma surrounding mental health. Our dedicated team of Grade 11 Wellness Leaders sold hot chocolate in the mornings and ice cream sundaes on Friday to raise money for this important organization. This was truly a whole school event, as students in all divisions lined up for a tasty treat. As a community, we raised $1,146 in support of youth mental health.

A huge congratulations goes out to our Wellness Leaders, led by Ms Jocelyn Rawlins and Mr. James Darling. This team truly rose to the occasion, putting the well-being of our students at the forefront of student life at HTS.
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