Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mental-health program for Digby schools gains national attention

An article published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
By Brian Medel, Yarmouth Bureau

Digby County proponents of an adolescent mental-health curriculum being included in area high schools have received national attention.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has asked if they can use a local program in a new national anti-stigma campaign.

"We’re very excited about being part of this campaign," John Roswell, the co-ordinator of the Digby Clare Mental Health Volunteers, said Tuesday.

"Our mandate is to promote the mental health of Digby County residents and we are trying to overcome the prejudice and discrimination faced by people with mental illness in our community.

"We have been focusing on adolescent mental health in particular and this is one of the areas the commission is concentrating on."

Mr. Roswell said his group has been working for several months to introduce information about mental health and illness into the curriculum of Digby County high schools. It now looks like the program will begin during the 2010-2011 school year.

"The (Canadian) Mental Health Commission will be helping us measure the effectiveness of our program," said Mr. Roswell.

The Digby County group has also joined forces with the Sun Life Financial Chair of Adolescent Mental Health at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre to help with their project.

Dr. Stan Kutcher, an adolescent mental health expert at Dalhousie University’s school of medicine, spoke to Digby County teachers Tuesday, providing information on mental health and disease.

Mr. Roswell said 80 per cent of all psychiatric disorders emerge in adolescence and it would be good for people to have some understanding of them.

"Mental illnesses affect more people, directly or indirectly, than any physical illness," he said, adding that 83 per cent of Digby County high school students surveyed by his association recently said they knew someone with a mental illness.

And yet mental illness is something people don’t like to talk about, said Mr. Roswell.

"We’re trying to overcome that by creating a dialogue in our community. We’re trying to help people see that it’s OK to admit that you might have a mental illness."

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