"My name is Logan Taylor and I am a Grade 12 student at Mother Teresa High School who wants to make a change for the better." That is how the email began.
I was intrigued. Not just because this email stood out from those I typically receive from businesses or associations seeking a professional speaker, but because I have one child in Grade 10, and another that just finished Grade 12. The message felt, somehow, very personal.
"This year, my business leadership class is running a youth conference called 'Game Changers' with a mission to inspire just over 400 Grade 10 students in the Barrhaven area to make a change. As Grade 12 students of Mother Teresa High School we would like to help influence a change in future generations and we need your help. At our youth conference we want to encourage students to take action on social issues, we want to speak about the issues that affect people in their community, life and world. Some social issues we are planning to talk about are mental health, environment, poverty, healthy living, bullying and inclusion.
Overall we want to see a change, a change that will encourage a better and brighter future. Lighting the fire with Grade 10 students is our basic mission and we hope that it'll encourage them to help make a difference themselves. Your participation will help us inspire the future."
Wow, I thought, what a great idea. I knew that I wanted to be a part of this. I set up a time to speak with Logan directly. I wanted to learn a little more about what they had planned for the event, and about how I might be able to help.
Logan's enthusiasm was palpable. She told me that they had booked Allan Hubley, an Ottawa MP, as a speaker at the conference. Mr. Hubley's son, Jamie, died by suicide in 2011 and he has spoken publicly about the importance of young people speaking out when they need help. Another speaker they looked at, but could not book due to a scheduling conflict, is Luke Richardson, the Ottawa Senators Assistant Coach, whose 14-year-old daughter, Daron, also died by suicide two years ago.
In an article in the Globe and Mail, Caroline Alphonso writes that "suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, and fourth among those in the younger age group, according to Statistics Canada."
Both Mr. Hubley and Mr. Richardson have been courageous in sharing their personal story with the world. Their openness has allowed the rest of us to open up the topic of mental health in our own homes and workplaces.
I jumped into action for Logan. While I will not be able to be there physically, I am providing some resources for the students that will be a part of the conference. In addition to sending some copies of my book Wake Up To Your Habits as door prizes, I prepared a handout of tips for positive mental health for each student.
You see, I am on a mission too. My mission is to increase the messaging and information about positive mental health. My mission is about prevention and pro-action, so that there are no more families who experience the same devastating loss as that experienced by the Richardson and Hubley families.
Mental health experts agree that not all people who die by suicide necessarily exhibit symptoms of mental illness. My position is that they very likely did not display behaviours of positive mental health.
I believe that the more we practice positive mental health, every day, the less chance there is that negative, debilitating, fateful thoughts, feelings or actions will transpire. There simply will not be room for those thoughts, feelings, and actions to take over.
Here is what I prepared for the Game Changers:
Be A Game Changer In Mental Health
You matter. Everything you think, feel, and do impacts you... and everyone else around you.
Your mental health is at the very foundation of your health and wellness as a human being. There is a lot that you can do to positively and pro-actively impact your mental health, every day.
Below is a list of ideas to help you be agame changer in mental health.
Grow your support network.
- Your brain is social, and you need other people in order to be a happy, healthy and productive human being. Attend to your friendships, and seek new relationships with positive people who will help you live your best life.
Appreciate your strengths.
- You know that you do some things really well. You feel great when you are doing those things. That is a clue that you are operating from your strengths. Pay attention when you are performing well and feeling good. And, do everything you can to keep doing those things. That is part of the secret to your source of joy and fulfilment in life.
- Take time, every day if you can, to be quiet. Turn off electronics, shut your eyes, and go 'inside'. Pay attention to your breath. Notice what you notice. Taking time for quiet allows you some space in an otherwise very busy life. You might be surprised what insights ("a-ha" moments, answers) arrive when you allow them an opportunity!
Engage in life.
- Say yes more often than you say no. (Of course, make sure you are saying yes to things that are good for you!) Rather than listening to the little voice in your head that might be telling you that you aren't good enough, popular enough, or smart enough to do something... say yes to the opportunity in front of you. When you decide to engage, you will always learn something important in life.
- Learning to communicate clearly is the greatest gift you can give to yourself. When you want something, ask for it (nicely, of course). When you are questioning someone's intentions, check your assumptions before you take action. When someone has done something that hurt you or impacted you negatively, take time to prepare what you want to say, and then have the conversation you need to have.
Help someone in need.
- You will be happier in life if you help others. Even simple actions like opening the door for someone or smiling and saying thank you to a service provider, will help YOU to have a better day. Take time to volunteer in your community. And, when you see a fellow student who might be feeling left out or isolated, extend a warm hand of friendship and invite that person to join you and your network.
Ask for help when you need it.
- Look after yourself. You are the only person who truly knows how you are doing. If you find yourself feeling blue, speak with a trusted person in your life. Ask for help. If you don't get the help you need, ask someone else.
Nurture positive emotion.
- You know what brings joy and happiness to your life. Make sure you have at least three times as many positive emotions as negative emotions in any day in your life. Hang with friends who make you smile, stay active, breathe deeply, and laugh often.
Give positive feedback to people you care about.
- Let other people in your life know what you appreciate and value about them. You will find that many things happen as a result: i) that person feels really good, ii) you feel really good, iii) that person keeps doing the thing that you appreciate and value, iv) you feel really good, etc.
- Drink water, exercise, sleep, take breaks (from technology too!), engage in something meaningful in your community.
Re-appraise negative situations, and keep looking forward.
- Negative situations are a part of life. When those situations occur, think about the story you are telling yourself about that situation. Then re-appraise or re-frame the situation so that you can feel differently and act differently. Keep moving toward what you want.
These are just a few tips that all of us -- whether in Grade 10 or not -- can practice every day.
Another part of my mission is to create a portal for spreading the message about positive mental health. I think of it as a movement, of sorts. I have invited Logan's Game Changers to be a part of this movement.
I'd love you to be a part of this movement also.
I have created a Facebook page called Mental Health for Greater Wealth. On that page, I will post stories, strategies, poems, videos, songs, whatever you send to me related to a positive message about mental health. This message about the Game Changers will be there for sure.
Please send me whatever you create or come across that is a positive mental health message! You can either post directly to that page, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know that we can create so much positive buzz, that there will be not room for anything else.