Sometimes when you take on a challenge, the impact of your efforts is far more reaching than you ever imagined. When grade 9 students at St. Patrick’s High School chose to participate in the Ciena Solutions Challenge, their goal was to create a safe space for their peers to learn about mental health. As May kicks off with Mental Health Week, they see their vision embraced by students and staff throughout their school.
Students recognize the importance of mental health
The Ciena Solutions Challenge is a global design challenge that invites students and teachers to create real-life solutions to build a better world. The students in Victoria Guerra’s Information & Communication Technology in Business class chose to address UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-being. Based on the impact of various world events and their life experiences, the students felt that mental health needed more attention. Their goal was to remove the stigma surrounding mental health within their school community. They hoped to create a safe space for students to help support their mental health and well-being.
No ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach
Students participated in multiple discussions and activities regarding how our identities shape our attitudes toward mental health, and how these elements could be limiting factors in accessing mental health supports. The students shared strategies they used to cope with mental health challenges. They also surveyed students to understand their mental health needs and concerns better. The class concluded there was no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to addressing mental health issues. And finding and accessing services needed to be streamlined.
Appealing to different levels of ‘readiness’
To address these issues and support their school community, the students created a website ‘by students, for students.” Why a website? A website provides easy access and user-friendly information relating to mental health resources. The website showcases in-school student resources and community mental health resources. This allows students to post information and services that appeal to different mental health readiness levels.
Beyond the Ciena challenge
Inspired by the students’ project, St. Pat’s teacher Christina Sangalli took on the additional challenge of expanding the reach of the project by collaborating with staff on the school’s Safe and Inclusive Schools Committee. They surveyed the student body and then Ms. Sangalli created the Head, Heart, Health (HHH) initiative to provide school-wide mental health and well-being activities throughout May. The activities were chosen based on the needs identified in the survey and are being promoted on the students’ SPH Mental Health website. HHH is also working with St. Patrick’s Student Council to deliver curated mental health content through the school’s social channels. What started as a class project has evolved into a school-wide initiative. It has also shown the students they can make a positive difference in their community.