More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
High School Education Program on Mental Illness (Canada)
August 29, 2006

The Pembroke Observer (Ontario, Canada) reported this week on a high-school program that teaches students about mental illness - which sounds like a great way to educate people at the age when most mental illness starts. From the sounds of the news story and the web site - this educational program is being rolled out across Canada.

The newspaper story says:

For the past five years, high school students throughout Renfrew County have been learning about mental illness as part of a four-lesson program aptly named Talking About Mental Illness (TAMI): See full resources, training books, and more at the Talking about Mental Illness website.

Launched in 2001 by a team of community partners including representatives from the Pembroke Regional Hospital's Community Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, and the school boards, TAMI provides students with an opportunity to learn about mental illness from those who have experienced it firsthand and are living with a mental disorder.
The goal of the program, which is incorporated into the grades 11 and 12 curriculum is to increase the knowledge and understanding of mental illness, while decreasing the associated stigma and stereotypes.

The first two lessons are conducted by the teacher, using provided materials about the different types of mental illness. For lesson three, an individual living with a mental illness speaks to students about life before and after diagnosis, and in the fourth and final lesson a CMHS staff member joins the class for a question and answer session and to provide information regarding mental health resources available within the community.

The CMHS director, Bernadette Wren, said that the program has been well received, and this sentiment is reflected in a new comprehensive evaluation of the program which includes comments from both students and teachers.

Within that evaluation, 82 percent of respondents said the individual presentations were a good way to learn about mental illness, and 98 percent agreed or strongly agreed that their comfort level dealing with someone with mental illness had been improved as had their understanding of the emotions experienced by someone living with mental illness.

Describing it with enthusiasm and referring to it as an excellent program that they would recommend to others, students said they really liked having the opportunity to interact with the clients and ask questions. They also liked the fact the dialogue was open and honest, and many said they would like to hear from more clients experiencing different types of mental illness.

"It proves that most of the stereotypes of mental illness are false and those suffering with them are not crazy, they're normal. It really educates young people," said one student, while another described feeling "privileged" having listened to the story of an individual living with mental illness.​
More Information: Canadian Center for Addictions and Mental Health, Talking about mental illness: A guide for developing an awareness program for youth


What a great program :) I really hope the Renfrew County is the first but definitely not the last and many others take note and follow suit to what they are doing.
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