Mental Health Literacy Day

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.”

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Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Six & Seven

The youth exchange and the people from New Brunswick got up really early to go get the bus to Niagara Falls.

On the way to Niagara Falls the bus was sleepy and quiet and when we got close to Niagara Falls everyone started playing music and it was exciting. We were all happy and excited to get there!

We got off the bus and got into groups and picked a place for lunch . People walked around and brought some treats and stuff.

After lunch we walked around the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum and learned about all kinds of wacky stuff. From there we walked the path towards the Falls and stopped to take lots of photos and marvel at the amazing natural wonder.

Then all of the great walking the group did. We went to the school for a dance.

The dance was put on by the Academy’s dance committee who prepared for about a month in advance. Lots of students who were not part of the exchange program came out, as well as some Academy alumni and friends. There was pizza and snacks as well as lots of glow sticks. The student DJ played a good mix of songs and took requests which got everybody dancing. It was a great last night in Toronto for our visitors from New Brunswick.

The next morning we got together for one last meal together and to say goodbye. We had breakfast at the restaurant next to their hotel so they would be ready for their airport pick up. We shared some memories of the week and appreciation for hosts and visitors. We then gifted our visitors with framed artwork of Toronto that we had all signed and they gave us beautiful artwork of their land.

We stood in the rain as our visitors loaded on the bus and many of us even ran after the bus as it drove away. It was sad to see them go, but exciting to know that we would see them again in just a few short weeks when we travel to Tobique.

By Sophia and Seth

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Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Five

On the fifth day of the Youth exchange, we started the day at Casa Loma. Before the arrival at Casa Loma we separated into two groups- one group took the scenic route and walked, while the other group took the TTC. We had a self guided visit, meaning we could explore the different rooms and buildings on our own. It was fun going through the long dark tunnels and climbing up the towers to get a good view of the city. We had a nice lunch on the terrace of Casa Loma with the most beautiful weather of the week!

After lunch, we all took the subway down to Ripley’s Aquarium. The aquarium, being a large attraction, is something that our visitors may not have experienced before. Once we got there, we split off into smaller groups so that we can all do what we wanted to do within the time we had. We spent an hour or two there to see everything the aquarium has to offer. Once we all met up afterwards, we walked down to the CN tower. Visiting the CN tower is also a Toronto exclusive experience and something that you must do while here. As we make our way up the tower, we all experience the view of downtown but it couldn’t beat the view we would all get at the top. Once we get there, we are greeted by this amazing view of Lake Ontario. One of the first thing we do is point out where our school is as well as some of the places we had visited already during their time here. This was not only a great experience for them but for us too.

At the end of the day, we went to VRPlayin to have dinner and play VR games. It was really fun due to the way VRPlayin is set up. We split into smaller groups so it allowed people who never used VR to have a better experience learning how to play it. For those who have played VR the smaller groups gave them a chance to play more complicated games allowing them to have a good time at their experience level. It was 2 to 3 people per booth and the thing about the booths is that they are using the full HTC vive (which is a virtual reality headset with body tracking). This is the most advanced VR system that is possible at the moment. All the booths could connect which enabled us to play a bunch of games together. It was a lot of fun to play a bunch of games with your friends which you couldn’t play anywhere else. Near the end of the night we put the hockey game up on one of the spare TVs and people started watching that as well. We were also able to donate leftover food to The Scott Mission, for which they were very grateful. All in all, it was a very good end to a good day.

By James, Peter and Shay

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Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Four

Our Tuesday started off with a walking tour through downtown Toronto lead by one of our Academy teachers, Todd. During the tour we got to learn about some of Toronto’s neighbourhoods and Infrastructure. The tour took us from the Annex neighbourhood where they were staying through U of T and finished in Kensington Market. In Kensington market we were free to explore the area and get lunch. In groups we went off and explored all of the interesting places in the market.

After the market we made our way back to the Academy. We did team building challenges with the whole school and we went into a big circle and played games like the West Wind Blows and Mingle Mingle Mingle. Then we went into separate groups and played a game to catch the ball in the same order over and over, saying everyone’s name. Finally, we were given resources to build the tallest tower and there was a tie between two groups.

After the challenges we had dinner together at the school and then there were options for after dinner. A group of us went down to watch the Raptors game playing at Jurassic Park, I enjoyed going to the Raptors game it was fun. It was a good experience to watch the game outside and see myself on the tv. I hope to go to the game some other time again. It was fun and the Raptors won that day.

By Jonah, Ben and Sebastian

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Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Three

On Monday April 15th we went to the Toronto Island. To get there we took the ferry across Lake Ontario. Once we got there we did games and a cleanup of the Island and YMCA day camp areas to prepare for the summer. We had a bbq hot dog lunch bonfire. After that we had marshmallows before Rein put a cut down spruce tree into the fire.

We went back to the YMCA for dinner hosted by Ben’s family, Cole’s family and Bailey’s. The dish was Portuguese churrasco chicken and chocolate brownies and after the meal, Ben entertained us with his steel drum. Some of us got up and did a conga line.

After the performance, many students went to shop at the Eaton Center but some including me stayed at the school and watched the Maple Leafs game. The Leafs won and it was fun to hang out and spend time with our friends. After the game we went home.

By Cole and Gavin

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