Have you ever noticed that when first responders, such as paramedics and firefighters, arrive at a scene in response to an emergency, they do not rush or race toward it at full tilt? Yet, every minute counts when it comes to helping someone in distress. They remain calm and composed for a number of reasons.
First, they know that their attitude will have a big impact on the general mood at the scene and how people behave. If they look disoriented and hasty, they may convey a sense of panic and disorganized urgency to the injured and the witnesses, which is not helpful. They also know that a few seconds saved is a meagre gain compared with the advantage of arriving at the scene focused, organized, and confident. Finally, they are aware that if they rush to a scene, they are more likely to trip, which would ultimately slow them down or even cause injury.
When we are in the heat of the action, or under the effects of stress, we can forget important things we already know.
For some people, going back to school can generate stress and anxiety about the unknown, particularly in the current context. In recent weeks, school workers, teachers, and parents noticed students’ excitement as they reunited with their classmates, their school, and their routine, but also noted how students’ familiar school environments were transformed by COVID-19 measures, to say the least. Once the excitement of going back to school has passed, how can these adults foster good mental health among students?
As a teacher, school worker, or youth worker, you have a special relationship with young people and can have a big impact on their mental health. This requires first taking stock of our own mental health: how have the past few months of lockdown gone for you? How do you feel about going to work at a school? Nervous, worried, happy to have human contact again, but concerned about health measures, or fearful for your health? All of the above?
Taking care of yourself and your mental health is an excellent way to be in the right frame of mind to listen to and be present for the students you support. By managing your own stress and drawing on resources as needed, you also set an example for health practises to adopt. Finally, by using the tools available to address young people’s mental health, you can actively promote it.
The mental health of young people concerns everyone, but we don’t necessarily all have the educational tools and knowledge to address it directly. This is why, under these unusual circumstances, the Canadian Mental Health Association—Montréal Branch is making available a free mental health promotion tool for young people. It offers concrete materials for those who care about youth mental health and who are in contact with young people, for example at school. More than just an activity guide, it is our commitment to the community so that we can all do our part to contribute to the mental health of a generation, one young person at a time.