Mental Health Matters #BellLetsTalk

“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Casel.org

Social emotional learning has always been super high on my priority list as a teacher and as a mother. It is a combination of essential life skills that touch every single aspect of our lives and it is crucial for kids to start understanding this from a young age. I feel blessed to have been brought up in a family that truly focused on mental health, even though it was a lot less public 20 years ago. Because of my family’s struggles with mental health, and the supports that were put into place to help us all through these difficult times, I was able to understand from early on that there’s no health without mental health and that there’s no shame in talking about it and asking for help. What may feel like a weakness is actually proof of a great deal of strength! My mom taught me that. And I want all kids to know this.

When I was in 6th grade, my mom had two severe depressions. I remember her going to live with my grand-parents for a while, close family and friends bringing us meals, and going for family counselling. Other than that though, I don’t remember much else. What I’ve come to realize as an adult is that going through this as a child affected me more than I knew. I had intentionally blocked out many memories from that time and it is only in the last couple of years that I worked through those while also talking to my mom and putting the pieces back together. Although that time was very hard on my family and I, I truly believe that it all made us so much stronger. My mom is the strongest person I know, and through her depressions, through her struggles, she learned a great deal about herself, which my siblings and I inherently learned as well. I admire my mom beyond words for always putting herself first, now. She knows herself so well and respects her limits and boundaries better than anyone else I know. She is a constant reminder of self-respect and not caring what other people think.

Needless to say, education around metal health holds a special place in my heart. If we can focus more on social emotional learning in schools from very early on, it will only positively impact everyone. I have many favourite books to bring these concepts into the classroom:

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My students and I this year have already read many of these, and will continue to have discussions around mental health and social emotional learning all year round. Today, we started off the day by talking about all of the books that we had already read and what we’ve learned from them. We also talked about what we learned from our lessons on “Big Brain, Little Brain”, zones of regulation, and the brain. It was then easy to link all of their learning to #BellLetsTalk day as well as our school wide inquiry project on the brain. We headed out in our learning common and started sketchnoting. We also sent the word around school and invited other classes to add to our sketchnote. We read another book together and went back with more to add to the board. By the end of the day, two other classes had come and added their pieces to our “#BellLetsTalk Mental Health Matters” masterpiece. What a beautiful and powerful reminder of all that the students already know around mental health and social emotional learning.

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My hope is that education around mental health helps all of the students feel safe, loved, supported and most importantly, never alone. I also hope that they fill their toolboxes up with strategies to use when they have those big feelings and feel comfortable going to someone to talk or to get help. No one should go through this alone, so today, and every other day, let’s talk.

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