Over 150 local high school students attended a free Mental Healthconference, “STOP the Stigma” at Duncan McArthur Hall in conjunction with theCanadian Mental Health Week in Kingston.

In it’s second year, the conference was organized by LaSalle secondaryschool teacher Andrea Barrow, with support from the Limestone LearningFoundation and Healthy Minds Canada, and was designed to inform, support andempower local students about mental health.

“Coming into teaching I recognized that there was a need for increasedawareness in mental health,” said Barrow. 

“My background was in mental health and it was sort of a blend of thosetwo worlds and recognizing that a lot of students are struggling, especiallybetween the ages of 15-24 is when their first diagnosed, if they’re going to bediagnosed with a mental illness.  A lotof times it’s either when students are at high school or when they’ve gone onto university and are facing other stresses and how to recognize the signs andsymptoms and where to turn for help and that it’s ok to turn for help.”

The STOP the Stigma conference has doubled in attendance fromapproximately 85 to close to 200 students, presenters and staff since starting in2012.

Barrow contacted all secondary schools in the Limestone District SchoolBoard and invited each of them to send 15-20 students who had an interest orcould benefit from the information provided at the conference.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “MentalHealth Week is an annual national event that takes place during the first weekin May to encourage people from allwalks of life to learn, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issuesrelating to mental health.”

“Depression runs in my family and my parents are really involved in afamily support group,” said Sarah McLeod a grade 12 student from LaSalleSecondary school.

“I feel like most people don’t know much about mental illness what soever and unless it’s actually happened to you or someone close to you that hasexperienced it then like, how are you going to know about it?”

There were a variety ofworkshops offered at the conference, including “Bullying and the Law” with theKingston Police, “The Stigma of Mental Illness” presented by the Canadian Mental HealthAssociation, a TAMI group (Talking about Mental Illness) presentation, a stressreduction discussion and “Disable the Label” presentation with The NewMentality students who shared their stories of diagnosis and living with mentalillness.

The conference also gave the student a chance to talk with their peers,ask questions to the presenters and hear first hand from a variety of peoplewho deal with mental illness on a daily basis.

“A lot of the times there is a stigma associated with mental illnessand students don’t want to speak out to their peers or their physician orfamily members and this day is about giving them that knowledge they needbecause knowledge is power,” said Barrow. 

“It’s about giving them the information in their hands so that if theyare experiencing any of these symptoms or signs or they’re seeing it in otherfriends they can be respectful for their friends, help them get help or helpget themselves help as well.”

“It’s not just at school either,” explained Ellie Rostant-Kritikouanother grade 12 student from LaSalle. “I think that it’s the society that wedo live in now it’s just been increasing. Not everyone is aware of (mental illness) but now there’s lots ofprograms that come to our school and we attend programs as well to get moreaware.”

“That’s why it’s so important so that people are ok with sharing it andcoming out and talking about it,” said McLeod.

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections.

The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked. "What's happened to me? " he thought. It wasn't a dream.

A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table - Samsa was a travelling salesman - and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame.


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