Programs focus on children’s mental health

The Medicine Hat Public School Division works to promote student mental health through its HUG and MyPlace programs.

The programs, which number two out of 37 in the province, are funded by Alberta Health Services and contracted through the division. HUG works with primary school students and MyPlace operates in local middle and high schools.

“We have seven successful coaches and they are all spread across our division,” said April Welshman, MHPSD Mental Health Capacity Building Program Manager, who oversees HUG and MyPlace.

Welshman explained that educators across the division can ask success coaches to visit their school or class to resolve issues that have arisen between students, or to develop specific skills based on that school’s health goals.

“We’re talking about resilience skills, social skills, friendship, healthy relationships,” Welshman said. “I think the most important thing is actually learning the definition of (the specific topic) and how it looks, sounds and feels. We give them the definition, we give them examples of what it could be, we do experiential learning …

November 15-19 marks Bullying Awareness Week in Canada this year. Welshman says their program doesn’t have specific activities planned for the week and instead focuses on year-round learning that targets the root of bullying and helps with prevention.

“I don’t think a week of talking about bullying will be enough,” she said. In the one-year program, success coaches work with students to recognize the difference between bullying, being mean, and teasing. They then tell them what to do if they experience or witness bullying.

“We want to start prevention and promotion at a very young age so that they have these lifelong health outcomes as they grow older,” Welshman said.

Welshman, Success Coaches and Board Educators have seen the program’s positive impact on students.

“The children are on the playground singing the songs we are teaching. We hear a lot of kids say, “Is this a small problem or a big problem? “” Is it talking rather than telling? She said. “We’re there regularly throughout the year, so we don’t go in and out, we’re there every week with the kids, teaching them different kinds of subjects… We really just want to endow our kids with kindness,” show kindness to others, show kindness to themselves. We just work to have nice people.

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