GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL –
A small group of Business Management students at
College of the North Atlantic’s (CNA) Grand Falls-Windsor campus have proven that a little idea can go a long way.
As members of Enactus Grand Falls-Windsor and through their Clear Image project, they developed a toolkit for students which contains several items pertaining to mental health and wellness, such as:
- a candy (i.e. chocolate, mint or lollipop);
- CHANNAL Warm Line card (1-855-753-2560, or in St. John’s 709-753-2560) – a non-emergency, non-crisis telephone support and referral service;
- a mindfulness sensory card – a coping or calming tool for times people may experience an anxiety attack to get in touch with their five senses;
- three additional coping activity information cards;
- an information sheet on Bridge the gApp – an adult/youth online resource designed to support mental wellness;
- a word search activity; and;
- a self-care calendar that has a checklist of suggestions on it as reminders.
Carrie-Lee West, a third-year Business Management (Accounting) student at Grand Falls-Windsor campus, said the idea arose following their trip to the Enactus Canada nationals in Toronto in 2018. Co-operators Insurance had just come on board as a sponsor and was willing to provide funding to any team who developed a mental health project. She and fellow student, Sarah Ballard, collaborated and eventually spearheaded the project to promote mental health and wellness. They were later joined by Ian Gordon, who is now a CNA alumnus.
When they brought their idea back to the former Enactus Grand Falls-Windsor president, their campus director and program facilitator, West said they all loved it and then the real work began to get the project off the ground.
“We didn’t have any idea about mental health; we didn’t have any idea about the community – I’m not from Grand Falls-Windsor,” said the Carmanville native. “We started researching and becoming familiar with what we needed to do.”
There were meetings with local mental health professionals, who gave them guidance on how to make a mental health kit along with insights on the resources they use.
“From what they gave us, we started making our own kits,” said West. “We had to present this to youth, so we couldn’t just hand them a bag without letting them know what they had to do. We decided to create an interactive presentation to get them thinking on their own about mental health – not so much on a personal level, but just general facts. We have a game called Truth and Myth, breathing exercises, stretching and a balloon activity that Ian Gordon came up with. It shows how when your stress level builds, the balloon also builds up more to eventually hit a point where the balloon will explode and just fly everywhere. The youth just loved that.”
Gordon, an Ontario native, recently completed a three-year diploma in CNA’s Business Management (Human Resources Management) program and is now pursuing his Bachelor of Business Administration at Grenfell Campus.
He plans to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador with his family, and he felt that being part of this project helped him have a better sense of the important role mental health plays in school and in the workplace.
“Going into the workforce and having that understanding will definitely help when searching for and finding work in the human resource profession,” Gordon explained. “The project helped me personally with planning ahead – not just having the next step planned, but what steps two and three could look like.”
West went on to say that when CNA hosted an Open House event earlier this calendar year, just prior to their Enactus group going to regionals, they invited members of the local business community in Grand Falls-Windsor and CNA staff to learn more about their mental health kit project. It was then that Karen Antle, CNA’s Director of Student Success, immediately saw the potential of this idea, and wanted it to become part of fall student orientation for new students at the college.
“It’s very exciting to offer this student-led initiative to our first-year students,” Antle said. “There is so much focus on mental health today, so we are confident the self-care kits will have a positive impact on students’ mental health as they navigate their way through CNA.”
West said many people will not reach out for help, and many will wait until it’s too late. This toolkit initiates a discussion on mental health and wellness. This is also where classmate Ballard feels she connected with the project as a means to fulfill her desire to start a mental health-focused initiative.
“I have been passionate about mental health and helping others who may be struggling for as long as I can remember,” recalled the Grand Falls-Windsor native, who also studies Business Management (Human Resources Management). “Throughout grade school, many of my friends and myself included, struggled with mental health issues whether they be surface area type things or very deep-rooted, and I have always been the one to reach out to talk about it and try to help them out. Halfway through high school, I kind of made the decision that I wanted to work for/with a non-profit, specifically with youth and mental health. Working with Clear Image and Enactus has definitely given me the skills to be able to do that. Seeing how they work and gaining the skill of working in teams has set me on a path with the career I've always wanted.”
Ballard says young people who begin struggling with their mental health would benefit from learning techniques on self-care, breathing or how to process tough situations by making the activities fun and interactive.
“Making them laugh is probably one of the best feelings,” said Ballard. “Letting them have fun with us, but still making sure they're getting the important information we want to forward is warming.”
Presentations to local youth groups and area schools has created a lot of interest in Clear Image and their project, says West.
To date, with the help of other Enactus members and volunteers, the group has prepared 3,100 self-care bags for CNA’s 17 campuses, but West said her group doesn’t want to stop there.
“If we could get this into all youth centres across Canada, we would love that,” she said. “Right now, we are at the provincial level, but if we make this into a national thing, it would be awesome. We would like to see them in guidance counsellors’ offices too. Students might not reach out for help, but they will talk to guidance counsellors, and they could give the students one of these kits.”
College of the North Atlantic