W.H. Croxford Leadership students will be spending 24 hours at the high school this Friday and Saturday to raise funds for local causes, and to create awareness of the importance of youth mental health during its Movement for Mental Health event.
“It’s an event to raise awareness and hopefully breakdown the stigma of mental health issues that teenagers face every day,” said Croxford teacher Michelle Thompson who coordinates the student Leadership team. “And it’s a way for us to make a difference in our community.”
Croxford inaugurated the Movement for Mental Health event in 2018, but group activities were largely suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Thompson said the pandemic noticeably impacted the mental health of many Croxford students during those days of social isolation.
“Just from teaching here before, during and after the pandemic, there is definitely a difference in kids feeling disconnected – both by choice and just the nature of life,” she explained. “It has been harder to get kids involved this year, but once we get kids involved they will hopefully understand how cool it is to be involved in something bigger than yourself. And how cool it is to be part of something which makes such a difference.”
During the 24-hour event, about 140 students in 16 groups will take part in a series of exercise sessions, group bonding events, and mental health awareness seminars to help de-stigmatize those struggling with mental health challenges. The students will also listen to select community members tell their own personal mental health stories and take part in a “Gratitude Ceremony.”
“We are hoping it’s one of those things where if we talk about mental health enough that kids aren’t as afraid to talk to others and get help,” Thompson said. “So they are not ashamed to say why is this happening to me? They know it can happen to anyone, and we can talk about it.”
On top of spreading a positive message about youth mental health, Croxford students taking part have also been raising money to support two local facilities which specialize in mental health in Airdrie: the Airdrie Health Foundation’s Lane’s Room, which will be built at the Airdrie Urgent Care Centre, and Hallway of Hope, which will be located in a new mental health facility expected to be built in Airdrie in the near future.
Lane’s Room will allow those experiencing mental health crises coming into the Airdrie Urgent Care Centre to wait in a soothing environment with specialized counselling on hand until a doctor can see to their needs.
The Hallway of Hope is based on a similar idea already installed at Foothills Hospital in Calgary for adolescents being admitted because of their mental health struggles to a specialized youth ward. The Hope Hallway at Foothills allows young people newly admitted to the ward to be greeted with a cheerful and non-intimidating entryway full of colour and light.
“We want to be partners for creating something similar in Airdrie,” Thompson summarized.
As of press time, W.H. Croxford Leadership students had raised about $13,000 for these two causes, and hoped to top that up by the conclusion of the Movement for Mental Health event.
“We are very proud of what the kids have done so far,” said Thompson.
The Movement for Mental Health event kicks off at 9 a.m. on Friday and goes until Saturday, April 1.