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UCDSB Gets Real During Canadian Mental Health Week
UCDSB Gets Real During Canadian Mental Health Week
Posted on 05/04/2022
UCDSB Gets Real During Canadian Mental Health Week

May 4, 2022 – Mental health and well-being play a significant role in both our personal and professional lives. This, of course, includes students. The Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) is shining a light and getting real during Canadian Mental Health Week, which runs May 2-8, 2022.

This year’s theme is empathy with the key message being ‘before you weigh in, you should tune in.’ The aim is to remind people to support each other, be kind, and help lift each other up. The UCDSB believes in the power of empathy in building meaningful relationships and optimizing mental health and wellness. Developing empathy for others and ourselves has become increasingly crucial as we continue to face challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

"While we have returned to a more normal life and school environment, the lingering effects from the pandemic remain,” explains Dr. Jennifer Curry, Chief Psychologist with the UCDSB. “Empathy may be the unseen benefit of the pandemic. Whatever our circumstances, everyone has experienced pain, uncertainty, and loss over the past two years. This of course also includes the learning environment for students.”  

During mental health week, students and staff are encouraged to participate in activities to increase empathy in the school environment. Some of the activities that have been shared with our staff, which come from School Mental Health Ontario are: ‘Walking in our shoes,’ which encourages students to question what it means to put themselves in someone else’s shoes; what actions they might take to help understand someone’s feelings or situation; ‘Pay it forward,’ which encourages students to create notes of affirmation for their peers. When students receive a positive message from a peer, it may prompt them to pay it forward. 

Lisa Livingston, the UCDSB’s Mental Health Lead, says that individuals facing emotional or situational challenges do not necessarily need solutions, but rather to be heard and validated.

“Showing empathy can be as simple as listening, withholding judgement and being there for someone. This simple act can have an enormous impact on someone’s life.”

Here are four ways to cultivate empathy in your own life.

  • Talk to people, and not just about the weather. Have conversations with a wide range of people about their feelings and experiences;
  • Try something new. That might mean travelling to a new country or spending time in a different neighbourhood. It might mean trying new kinds of food or attending a place of worship of a different faith. Or it means volunteering for a new cause;
  • Read some fiction. Reading fiction is an easy, enjoyable, and evidence-based way to increase your empathy. It allows you to enter the characters’ thoughts and feelings and see their point of view. You’re able to explore how someone else’s mind works and better understand what shapes their perspective;
  • Be present and pay attention. Mindfulness is an awareness that comes with paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, a social connection can have enormously positive effects on mental and physical health – including reducing stress and providing people with a sense of purpose and belonging.  

“Making student wellness a priority and supporting students and staff in building mental health literacy is good for everyone and critical in supporting achievement,” shares Superintendent Jennifer Perry, who oversees student mental health and well-being at the UCDSB. “Being connected to students and hearing what they are experiencing and what they need is a crucial part of planning, allocating resources, and supporting student wellness in our schools. I am very grateful to Director Ferguson and the Board of Trustees for prioritizing student mental health by creating this portfolio.”  

“Everyone needs a little help from time to time, so reach out if you need to. We offer information about mental health and community supports, online and through social media,” adds Curry. “You can also reach out to your local school.”  

Information about student well-being and community supports for UCDSB families can be found on the UCDSB website and in our Mental Health & Wellness Virtual Library.  Learn more about mental health from the Canadian Mental Health Association, Children’s Mental Health Ontario, and School Mental Health Ontario websites. Children and youth can also visit the Kids Help Phone.  

For more information, please contact: 

April Scott-Clarke   Manager of Communications   Upper Canada District School Board   [email protected] 

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