Laurier Macdonald High School to host Mental Health Fair

Montreal - Thursday, September 13, 2018

Laurier Macdonald High School  (7355 Viau) in St. Léonard will be hosting a special two-day  Mental Health Fair on Tuesday, October 2 and Wednesday, October  3 (9 am to 3:30 pm), reaching out to students and parents at the Mental Health Fair.

There will be a parent evening on Tuesday, October 2 (7 pm to 8:30 pm) The East Island Network for English Language Services (REISA) is co-hosting the event for   students from five other East End high schools:  John Paul I in St. Léonard,  Rosemount and Vincent Massey Collegiate in Rosemount, Lester B Pearson in Montreal North,  and John F Kennedy in St. Michel.    There will also be an evening session for parents on October 2 (7 pm), with EMSB psychologist Despina Vassiliou as the presenter. There is no admission charge.

Over 1,000 students will be able to benefit from resources that will be on display. An EMSB psychologist will also be in attendance. The goal is very straight-forward: dealing with, and talking about, mental health.

"It's an idea we've been kicking around for a while now," said Laurier Macdonald Community Development Agent Bobbie Variantzas. "We've been having different professionals come into our building to speak to our students for the last few years. Because we've built up now such great partnerships with many of them, we decided to make it a bigger event and invite several of our EMSB schools to come and for their students to participate, to benefit from the knowledge that these people can give them, from their expertise, and also the different activities that they offer."

Among the groups taking part are the YWCA, YMCA, La Maison des Jeunes de St-Léonard and the Kids Help Line. Representatives from several government health agencies will be there as well.

Vice-principal Nicholas Romano said the school wants to be pro-active. "This is why we've chosen to do this event early on in the school year,” he said.  “Because as exams start to roll in and we progress throughout the year, we start to see more and more cases of anxiety, and sometimes, kids developing symptoms of depression. So this is an important event for us, especially to have at the beginning of the year so we can give them the resources early on, instead of reacting to issues later." 

The numbers are worrisome. One in five students will develop mental illness; 20 percent of people with mental illness have a re-occurring substance abuse problem; 40 percent of parents wouldn't tell anyone about their child's mental illness; about half of those who suffer from mental illness have never seen a doctor about it.

But, 80 percent of those who seek help are able to get back to their regular activities and live a fulfilling life.

Youth intervention worker Gerry Tullio said many people are ashamed or embarrassed to reach out for help. He understands there is still a stigma surrounding mental health but that "more and more, we're trying to get rid of it. I think we've come a long way but we still have a way to go," Tullio said.

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