Mary GolemThe Post
Date Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
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Kathryn Loucks wants students struggling with depression to know they are not alone.
The grade 12 student at the Chesley District High School, who has battled depression herself, tackled the issue of mental health awareness as an English class assignment earlier this year. Her passion for increasing awareness, and to combat the stigma related to depression and other mental health illness, both in her school and beyond, soon snowballed.
Loucks created a campaign at CDHS and formed an advocacy group entitled "Disable the Label" to help raise awareness among her fellow students. She had t-shirts printed, and garnered more than $10,000 in donations from local businesses and government agencies to help with her awareness campaign. She also appeared on Canada AM during Mental Health Week, and is one of eight Ontario students chosen to sit on a youth action committee for Children's Mental Health Ontario this year. She's also served on the Bluewater District School Board's staff and student wellness committee, and for a group advising Keystone Child, Youth and Family Services about strategic direction and community relations.
Loucks also organized a workshop at her school on Friday, April 13 featuring 70 mental health professionals from Keystone Child, Youth and Family Services in Owen Sound. In fact, Keystone has been so impressed with Loucks' project they have hired her for the summer to help develop a template to offer similar programs in all area high schools next year.
"It's really been exciting," Loucks said after Friday's assembly. "The whole point of this is to make sure students know they are resources available. There is help if they need it. Finding someone to share what you are going through is so important. Kids have to know it's not their fault and it's not something that you can just snap out of .... we need to combat the stigma that's associated with mental illness because it can be more harmful than the actual illness."
Loucks expressed gratitude for the support she's received for her campaign from fellow students, the school, community and Keystone.
"They have all been so supportive," she said.
In addition to a series of workshops at Friday's event, Locks also inspired students to express their thoughts about mental health and suicide awareness through videos, songs, writing and visual arts for a related "Arrange the Change" arts competition. Over $900 in prizes were awarded.
Grade 12 student Sarah Dufton's dramatic video about suicide prevention won first prize, an iPad, followed by a musical selection by Becky Shaw. Third prize went to Michaela Stutzki for her video with other prizes awarded to Anne Beverley-Foster, Victoria Loucks and Jason Black. In all, 26 works of were submitted, with some students entering more than once.
Kathryn's twin sister Victoria expressed pride in her sister's efforts and said because students understand Kathryn initiated the project partly as a result of her own experiences with depression, there's strong student support and interest in what she is doing.
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