Singing in unison. Planting seeds and digging in the dirt. Reading graphic novels. Eating a delicious meal. Journaling. Making art. Exercising. These are more than just fun activities: they are all powerful tools to reflect on and make changes in your mental health and well-being. And on Friday, May 10, YMCA Academy students did all of these things, and much more, at the school’s second annual Mental Health Literacy Day.
This event is the latest in a long line of Academy initiatives built to help young people understand and manage their mental health. As a school, we’ve long taken a holistic approach to student support, and we were an early adopter of making mindfulness exercises a daily part of school life. Earlier this year, we launched a unique interdisciplinary course in mental health advocacy and awareness. “We are really looking to empower students so that they are building up their skill sets while they’re here,” says Kaili Glennon, the Academy’s Assistant Head of School and Guidance Supervisor. “That way, when they leave, they have the capacity to be healthy and happy on their own.”
With that in mind, Mental Health Literacy Day was designed with a hands-on, practical approach. The workshops and guest speakers each provided students with resources and knowledge they can use right away to improve their mental health, and become more literate in mental health issues. “This event is about starting a conversation about mental health, and making it a regular part of our speech,” says Dayna Dann, Academy teacher and creator of the new mental health course. “We want to give students the language to communicate their feelings in a positive way.”
For Bailey, a YMCA Academy student, the impact was immediate. “On Mental Health Literacy Day, I learned lots of things,” he says. “I learned that walking can help with your mental health, which I had no idea would help. I also learned lots about how to sleep better and how to manage my sleep.”
Bailey sees a range of benefits to events like these. “First of all, it informs everyone about mental health and some people forget about it,” he says. “As well, it can give the students a break and relieve the stress and anxiety of school.”
Duncan, another Academy student who is also enrolled in the school’s new mental health course, agrees. “I think it’s very important to discuss and do events surrounding mental health,” he says. “There is a lot of stigma and negativity surrounding mental health. So it’s very important to learn about things like that.”
Check out more photos from this event on our Facebook page!