The Breakfast Club: Making Mental Health a Priority

Each year, the first week of May is dedicated to mental health awareness across the country. A campaign led by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), this yearly event encourages people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect, and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health. In recognition of the importance of mental health in our community, two students led the charge this year in support of the second full Mental Health Month at York House School.

This is the third year for the Breakfast Club at York House, which focuses on initiatives in support of mental health throughout the year. This year, Alex (Gr. 12) and Leah (Gr. 11), our Breakfast Club Heads, made a concerted effort to keep the discussions going on this important subject throughout the year. They made the Breakfast Club more visible at Assembly and supported a number of initiatives such as Bell Let’s Talk Day in the early part of the year and, of course, Mental Health Month in May. For Mental Health Month, together with the support of students and teachers, they planned a series of activities that focused not on “mental illness” as such but on the importance to everyone of “mental health”.

Posters were created and discussions were held to debunk myths around mental illness and show how we can support positive mental health in our community. These posters, created by Grade 11 student, Ysabella, paired individual students with powerful statistics about mental health together with their own personal quotes and were placed throughout the Senior School; a student led panel discussion opened up the dialogue about mental health with students across the grades; and Senior School Science Teacher, Ms. Kaddage shared her experience as a volunteer with Vancouver’s Crisis Line. At the end of the month, Alex and Leah presented to students some of the myths about mental illness at Assembly.

The girls both cited Dr. JoAnn Deak’s visit to the school in January as something that inspired them for this year’s campaign.

“When she came and showed students that a human brain that is depressed looks different we could see the impact this had. People like facts that they can see. For Mental Health Month, we wanted to rattle people a bit and show them the realities,” said Alex.

Commenting on the overall impact of the month, Leah said, “It really has been such a learning and growing experience. We feel we have bridged a lot of gaps between the grades and, as a result, we have a stronger community.”

Added Alex, “For many students, it is intimidating to go to a counsellor. Girls are a little more comfortable coming up to me when something I have said during assembly has meaning to them.”

Alex has graduated from York House this year but when asked about what she hopes for the future at the school she commented, “I hope to see more reaching out by the older students to the younger grades. It is so intimidating to speak out for yourself in Grade 8 and 9 and it is difficult to help your friends as you get older, as long as the stigma remains.”

Talking about her hopes for the campaign next year, in her final year at York House, Leah said, “We hope to kick-off a bit earlier and share more personal stories. I have come to learn that people sharing their stories is way more effective.”

We are looking forward to even more of these meaningful discussions in the year ahead. Great work Breakfast Club!