On May 28th, the GISS Leadership team woke up early to attend the Mental Health conference taking place at the University of Victoria. The group went to visit the conference in hopes of getting inspiration and ideas for the upcoming Mental Health Forum that is planned for next year at Gulf Islands Secondary School.

Although the conference was more geared towards teachers and other faculty members, each speaker had an important lesson with the same conclusion, ‘the mental and social outcome of students is just as important, if not more so, than the academic outcome.’ The speakers, including Dr Kim Schonert-Reichl, Maureen Dockendorf, Scott Stinson and many more, spoke about social emotional learning, the importance of creating connections and the vitality of increasing the mental health knowledge for both students and teachers alike.

After the numerous talks and discussions about mental heath, School District 64 had the opportunity to sit and brainstorm ‘What will we do with this information?’. Quickly, the planned GISS Mental Health Summit became the main subject, involving all members of Leadership class, as well as teachers and staff. The students decided that we should use our school’s artistique ability and allow students to express themselves with spoken word, art work, music and dance. The Mental Health Summit will be by the students, for the students.

“Students of GISS have already expressed interest in this topic. I mean students have anonymously posted mental health and body positive posters all over the school.” says Jesica Pearce, a grade 10 student from GISS, and current member of Leadership. “GISS is just dying to talk about this.”

Mental health is no longer an issue we can stand to ignore so in response GISS Leadership are excited to host GISS’s first annual mental health summit at the high school next year.

“As a leadership group, we are stepping up to the challenge and tackling these issues and kick starting the conversation, the de-stigmatization of mental health will help people open up.” says Lina Losier, another grade 10 member of Leadership. “In this situation education is key: Mental Health needs to be treated the same as a physical injury or illness.”

Many ideas were brought up during the discussion, and GISS’s first annual Mental Health Summit looks like it will be packed with important information that all students and teachers can use. Together we can take away the stigma surrounding mental illness’ and make GISS a healthier school.

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Photos and text by: GISS students Lina Losier and Jesica Pearce