Kristen SmithThe Enterprise Bulletin
Date Published: Friday, May 4, 2012
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COLLINGWOOD -More than 300 elementary school students will gather at a local high school Wednesday to promote positive mental health.
As part of Children's Mental Health Week, students in Grades 5 through 8 from St. Mary's, Mountain View, Admiral Collingwood, Nottawa Elementary, Cameron Street, and Connaught will walk to Collingwood Collegiate Institute.
Upon their arrival, the students will be led by CCI and Jean Vanier students in a variety of physical activities, which could include yoga and co-operative games and will act as the students' daily physical activity (DPA).
According to Children's Mental Health Ontario, one in five children in struggle with their mental health, and one in six get help.
New Path child and youth worker Sandra Dankevy says children struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders, and interpersonal issues.
She says children should be able to ask for help without feeling marginalized.
"As we increase awareness we give children a voice," said Dankevy, adding the earlier a child with mental health issues get help, the better.
Dankevy says as awareness is increased, stigma is decreased, since it reduces the isolation and shame associate with mental health issues.
Georgian College placement student Stephanie Sibley suggests children with mental health issues feel shame because their friends aren't discussing it, which makes them feel different.
Kelly Traves, with the intensive services for students program, adds shame also comes from a certain level of ignorance and the portrayal of mental illness in the media.
Cameron Street principal Mike Giffen says its important for children to know there are adults they can trust and turn to.
"If you give kids a voice, it can validate their feelings," said Giffen.
Dankevy says the walk's focus is on positive mental health.
"If you have children who are physically engaged in healthy activities, then the outcomes for positive mental health are increased," she said.
New Path Family Health staff will be on hand to answer any questions, but Dankevy notes it's important to point out the Children's Walk for Mental Health is more about "peer-to-peer" engagement since youth are the experts in adolescence experiences.
"We're trying to replace peer pressure with peer influence," said Giffen.
(Please note that CMHO staff does not reply to comments that are posted on news stories.)