All students should be WRAP-stars
By: Tim Cusack
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 12, 2012 06:00 am
Fall is in the air. School, college and university campuses are again hives of learning activities. Students are abuzz with excitement and enthusiasm as they catch up with schoolmates, telling stories of all-too-fleeting summer adventures. For many, just as those good-humoured commercials tease, ‘it’s the most wonderful time of the year,’ it is wonderful in the sense that we get back to the weekday routines and activities of the new school year. For others however, the return to classes can be an entirely different and certainly a less wonderful experience.
In this week’s edition of Maclean’s, Kate Lunau’s article “The Broken Generation” reveals some startling statistics on the increase of mental health and wellness issues amongst college-aged adults. She explores the many issues and stresses that students face today. Anxiety is listed as one of the most prevalent mental health concerns. As an educator, I have witnessed the stress that can easily manifest in any student. Worrying over grades for post-secondary entrance requirements, managing financial concerns and dealing with the myriad of daily stresses we all contend with, such as commuting, can wear a person down. Well-rounded students are not immune to the pressures either. Lunau suggests there is a greater need for mental health supports on campuses and that if more attention is not given to addressing the mental well being of our youth, then we stand to lose more young minds to self-destructive ends. There is hope though.
This summer, a contingent of high school students from Bellerose Composite in St. Albert and Louis St. Laurent School in Edmonton participated in a pilot project that is aimed at empowering youth to be proactive in understanding issues surrounding mental health and wellness. In conjunction with Alberta Health Services and Copeland Wellness Centre in Oakland, Calif., the students took part in a series of professional development activities called WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). This trademark program provides students with a personalized examination of stressors and how to successfully cope with them.
I had first-hand opportunity to observe the students address critical issues and was thrilled with how resilient they were in not only taking on and tackling challenges, but also in articulating the genuine desire to help their peers. WRAP was initially designed for adults and the program has had very good success in many countries throughout the world. For the students of Bellerose and Louis however, there is a special historical note in that these are the first high schools in North America to pilot the program.
Most of the students who participated in WRAP over the July long weekend recently completed the second phase of the pilot project by becoming certified WRAP facilitators. Trained by wellness professionals from the Copeland Centre and Alberta Health Services, the students learned how to become stronger communicators and advocates for wellness. The next step will see these youths guide their peers towards completing the initial WRAP, which takes 18 hours. These sessions will take place at various times throughout the academic year.
Students at both schools who may be feeling anxious, worried, alone or afraid will have the chance to participate in a program, at no cost, that could be life changing. I want to applaud the students for taking the risk in trying something new that not only benefits them as individuals, but also helps make a difference in the lives of others. I am excited to see how the pilot progresses and I hope WRAP becomes available to all area high schools and post secondary campuses.
Tim Cusack commends the students of Bellerose and LSL for their dedication to wellness.