Toronto high school to teach students how to cope with stress
Published Sunday, January 19, 2014 7:16PM EST
As new research shows an increasing number of children and teenagers are struggling to cope with stress and anxiety, one Toronto high school is fighting back.
Starting in February, students at Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute will begin attending weekly sessions to learn how to manage their stress and anxiety in a healthy way.
The program is part of the Toronto District School Board's "Mental Health Strategy", which will be launched in a few weeks. According to the TDSB, one in five children will experience mental health issues, including depression, eating disorders, substance abuse and anxiety. That statistic translates to approximately 40,000 students in the TDSB.
"Student wellness and mental health are tied to student achievement," a spokesperson with the the TDSB told CTV Toronto.
At Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute, students say they're under a lot of pressure. They say balancing school work, extracurricular activities and a healthy social life can be difficult.
"Parents, like, they're really worried about marks," one Toronto high school student told CTV Toronto.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself for homework and tests," another student said.
To help manage their stress levels, teachers at Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute will start guiding students on how to manage chronic anxiety, teaching them how to become self-aware of their thoughts and feelings.
The curriculum is based on a program created by U.S. psychologist Patricia Broderick, author of the book "Learning to breathe: A mindfulness curriculum for adolescents to cultivate emotion regulation, attention, and performance."
"We teach them how to be mindful of their bodies, mindful of their thoughts, their feelings and to actually look at chronic stress in their life and to watch the buildup so they can manage it better," Broderick told CTV Toronto.
Broderick recently held a professional development day to train TDSB staff members on how to help students.
"They're very self-aware of their sources of stress and their anxiety and now they're looking for ways of coping with it," Sandy Kaskens with the TDSB told CTV Toronto.
The launch of the TDSB's "Mental Health Strategy" will coincide with Bell's "Let's Talk" event on Jan. 28, a day dedicated to raising money for mental health awareness.
As part of the annual event, Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health initiatives for every text and phone call made that day. Tweets using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk and Facebook shares of Bell's "Let's Talk" image will also result in a 5 cents donation.
Bell Media is the parent company of CTV and owns dozens of conventional and specialty television stations.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Naomi Parness