Grande Prairie Public School Division students, along with others across the province, are shining awareness on the importance of good mental health by wearing hats for Hats On! for Mental Health Day.
Director of Inclusive Learning for the GPPSD Nancy Gorgichuk says that hat rules in the schools are relaxed so students could take part in the mental health week initiative.
“It is just a very physical way to show that this is a priority across the community,” Gorgichuk says. “I think the thing for the Grande Prairie Public School Division is it isn’t just a one-day thing for us. So we are really excited to be able to have that visibility, but it is an everyday priority for us and for our school division.”
She explains initiatives like Hats On! for Mental Health Day provide an opportunity for students to focus on positive mental health; while also creating another way for them to learn what positive mental health looks like and how to be prepared.
“We have a priority in our priority of inclusion, where we state the emotional and physical well-being and mental health of all students and staff is supported. So we have tiered levels of support and one of those levels is the very base of that, and we call them universal strategies, and these are strategies that every single student in our division are exposed to.”
She adds these strategies are aimed at supporting healthy living, including mental health. With these strategies students are taught they will go through times in their life where they will experience both positive and negative mental health, but also ways to identify the emotions and tools to help manage them.
“We have a number of programs, we have Mental Health Capacity Building that we are involved with and those employees come from Alberta Health Services to support our schools. They work at the classroom level,” Gorgichuk says. “We employ a team of social workers/councillors that support all of our schools and can respond to student needs as well.”
She says initiatives and days like Hats On! for Mental Health, along with the programs and initiatives the division runs year-round, are important because they continue the conversation and get rid of the stigma which can come along with mental health conversations.