School Notes: blanket exercises and mental health


Blanket exercise for parents

St. Albert Public School parents can learn about the impacts of colonization on Canada’s Indigenous peoples Monday at a free blanket exercise.

About 50 parents are expected to check out a free blanket exercise this Jan. 22 at Leo Nickerson Elementary. The event is the first of four workshops planned this term as part of the public board’s Truth and Reconciliation Parent Series.

Public board students learned how Canada’s residential school system affected First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children last year through the Project of Heart initiative, said Marianne Barrett, the board’s associate superintendent of program and planning. Students went home and told their parents about it, and parents asked the board for help to understand this part of Canada’s history.

Monday’s event will let parents experience the effects of 500 years of federal policy on Indigenous rights, Barrett said.

“You stand on blankets that represent the land,” she said, and those blankets get taken away as your freedoms are restrained by government decisions, residential schools, and treaties. You’ll also get to hear about real life stories of people who lived through these times.

“It’s very powerful.”

Barrett said the board would also hold a free showing of the film Journey Towards Reconciliation this Feb. 26 at Sir George Simpson, which follows a group of Edmonton Indigenous youth as they learn about Canada’s residential schools. There will be a second blanket exercise on April 9 at Muriel Martin, and a workshop on residential school impacts on May 14 at Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

The aim of these events is to help people understand Canada’s past so we don’t repeat our mistakes, Barrett said.

“We need to come to terms with our history.”

Monday’s event runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and is open to the public. Call the district office at 780-460-3712 for details.

Psychology talk

Can you be mentally ill and still have good mental health? St. Albert Catholic parents will find out Monday at a free talk by a renowned Alberta therapist.

Therapist Andrew Baxter will speak to some 250 St. Albert Catholic parents Monday about mental health literacy.

The free talk is part of Greater St. Albert Catholic’s mental health strategic plan, Barb Brochu, associate superintendent with the board, said in an email. Monday’s talk is full, but more sessions could happen if there’s demand.

Baxter has been working with GSACRD on mental health education for the last year or so and is part of Alberta’s Mental Health Literacy Project, which aims to reduce the stigma around mental illness by teaching teachers and students about it. His talk will discuss the teenage brain, stress management, and where to turn to get help.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about what mental health is,” Baxter said, and his goal is to get everyone on the same page.

Citing World Health Organization reports, Baxter said about 20 per cent of students will develop a mental health disorder during adolescence, with 70 per cent of those disorders emerging between ages 12 and 25. That makes it critical to target youths for mental health education.

One important lesson to learn is that having a mental health disorder does not necessarily mean having poor mental health, he continued.

“You can have someone with ADHD that has far better mental health than someone without (it),” he said – the difference is in how they handle it.

Likewise, feeling distressed is not a mental illness. Students will have up and down days, Baxter said – it’s only when stress or depression impairs your life that they become a disorder.

The talk runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at St. Albert Catholic High.


About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.