Maple Ridge Secondary students Tayah Bitter, left, and Nana Yamamoto, center, along with teacher Maria Trudeau, organized a Mental Health and Wellness Week for the school. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge Secondary students Tayah Bitter, left, and Nana Yamamoto, center, along with teacher Maria Trudeau, organized a Mental Health and Wellness Week for the school. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge high school promotes mental health during COVID

Maple Ridge Secondary will be holding a Mental Health and Wellness Week

Graduating from high school is a right-of-passage for many students.

But, this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students in Grade 12 have had none of the activities normally planned throughout the school year to celebrate their graduation and for some this is a source of depression and anxiety. Although, there will be an official graduation ceremony, something last years graduation class did not receive.

So, a Mental Health and Wellness Week has been planned leading up to Spring Break to support not only the Grade 12 students at Maple Ridge Secondary School, but all students, who might be feeling blue because of the pandemic.

Last year graduates got some festivities in during the first half of the year before schools were forced to close, said Maria Trudeau, teacher and co-organizer of the event. This year, she said, students received nothing.

Trudeau is organizing the week with a handful of students – between two and six – who have been working hard to organize and come up with mental health activities for every student to partake in at the school.

However, what started off with Trudeau and two other students trying to organize a single activity on one day, spiralled into activities for the whole school for the whole week.

Together the students have created 60 different classroom packages for each day this week, that they will be delivering every morning to the different classrooms.

RELATED: New mental health pilot project to be launched in SD42

Each package will contain a five minute mental health and wellness activity. And, they are asking teachers, if they can allow a bit more time, to do an extension activity that is also included.

Every day will have a theme next week: Manifest Monday; Tidy Tuesday; Wednesday Workout; Thoughtful Thursday; and Focus Friday. Activities will include chair yoga, breathing exercises, gratitude writes, and doodling.

And at the end of the week the goal is that every student at the school will have a mini wellness kit with activities and resources that they can take into Spring Break with them.

“I don’t think a lot of people thought at this time last year that we would be in the situation where we are. We feel it’s a particularly challenging time for students,” noted Trudeau.

RELATED: Report finds COVID-19 accelerated declining mental health of Canadian youth

On Monday all 1,200 students at the school will be receiving a green MRSS Wellness Week silicone bracelet, green being the colour that represents mental health and wellness.

The week will build up to Friday, which is being billed as the fun day.

For the Grade 12’s the team wanted to do something special and have organized six dogs from within the school community, who are involved in some form of canine/human therapy, to visit the classes who are open to having the dogs.

Every student at the school, however, will be making “goal bracelets”.

“They will be planning out their mental health and wellness goals for the upcoming Spring Break and as they make the bracelets hopefully they are thinking about that,” said Trudeau.

Creating activities for so many students for so many days was challenging for the organizers.

They brainstormed ideas and had to dig deep because most ideas required supplies and cost money that they didn’t have. And they couldn’t plan anything that would congregate students in a single area.

By Friday, Mar. 5, organizers were still working hard getting all the packages ready for Monday, including cutting and separating 150 bundles of string for each student to receive three threads for theirfor the “goal bracelets”.

Trudeau is hoping this first annual Mental Health and Wellness Week, from Mar. 8-12, will be the kick-off to a yearly event.

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