Medicine Hat school boards continue to focus on mental health

·2 min read

Local school boards came together this week to discuss mental health and the suicide crisis in Medicine Hat.

This was the second virtual meeting in the last month that was held for parents and caregivers. The event was hosted by school division psychologists Claire Petersen and Greg Godard.

“I think it went really well,” Petersen said of Wednesday evening’s meeting. “We were able to address some different topics than the first meeting we had.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with other divisions to have these really important conversations.”

The first event, which was held last month, was hosted by trauma expert Kevin Cameron. More than 600 tuned in live to hear their questions answered.

Wednesday’s event answered questions submitted by parents that were not answered last month.

“Parents sent in some amazing, thoughtful and really brave questions – we just couldn’t get to them all,” said Petersen. “We took the ones we couldn’t get to and grouped them together by theme.

“This week we talked about self-harm, talking with other adults about suicide, the stigma and mental health, accessing support and then we talked about building resilience.”

Petersen says the focus now is to keep the conversation going with school-based mental health professionals in the region.

“We’ve been sharing our contact information, but over the next week or so parents will see a series of videos start to come out that introduces these professionals,” she said. “We want to continue that conversation on a more individual level.

“We know there may be some specific questions people have asked that we may not have answered, so we want people to know that we are here. The video series will help families put names to faces.”

Each division is going to gather information and determine what ways it should continue to address mental health conversations and how to keep them going.

“We’ll follow up with people with more intimate conversations on a school level,” she said.

Petersen says the school year has been busier for psychologists and mental health workers than ever.

“There’s multiple reasons it’s been so busy,” she said. “I think mental health concerns, along with COVID-19 and planning, and just trying to have a way for everyone to learn.

“Everyone is working so hard and we’re ensuring that we’re there for students and staff when they need us.”

Mo Cranker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News