Mind your Mind!

Innovative conference at high school in Labrador City accentuates the positive side of Mental Health.


Published on May 11, 2017

Participants and organizers sign banners. (From left) Zach Hunt of Labrador City, participant and member of youth justice committee, Amy Tucker, youth outreach worker Labrador City LWGH, Ocean Shiwak of Rigolet, a participant, Erica Jacque of Postville, a participant, and Yvonne Smith, a guidance councillor at Menihek high school.

©Mike Power

In Newfoundland and Labrador when you're told to mind something, it means to pay attention to something or to watch out for something.

"Mind the moose," we all know, means to take caution and watch out for moose that could be a hazard.

The recent conference at Menihek High School in Labrador City "mind your mind" was a great play on that well-known phrase that basically told participants to take care of their mental health.

But rather than just tell the participants, the weekend showed all kinds of ways to do that.

Two of the main organizers, Yvonne Smith, a guidance councillor at Menihek high school, and Amy Tucker, the youth outreach worker at the school (an employee of Labrador Grenfell Healths mental health and addictions department ) say work on the event started two years ago.

"Some of our students had the opportunity to travel to similar events in other parts of the province," Smith told the Aurora, “but only a few. We thought it would be a great idea to have a conference in this area so as many students as possible could learn about good mental health, and what's available to achieve that.”

The event was a collaboration between Menihek high schools social justice committee and the Newfoundland and Labrador English school boards Northern Lead Committee.

Organizers were overwhelmed by the support they received.

"When we reached out to the community the response was immediate and the support overwhelming," Tucker said. "We had people volunteer to lead workshops, give Demonstrations, help with events, donate prizes or services."

Councillor Yvonne Smith told the Aurora, "It’s obvious the community cares about the well-being of its citizens, and that's encouraging."

The conference kicked off on May 5 with guest speaker Jeremy Bennett. At a young age he was diagnosed with anxiety, clinical depression and other issues. In the past ten years he's spoken around the world on the issues of stress and anxiety, written books and produced documentaries on the subject.

The well-attended event was free to anybody in the community.

He told the audience that anxiety itself isn't bad, but it can make you feel bad, and explained on how to deal with it.

Learning to achieve good mental health was the theme of the weekend. Students had a choice of workshops that included yoga, martial arts, journaling, laughter, art, Zumba, and more.

Two sessions, LGBTQ, and building coping jars (behavior therapy) were mandatory.

Smith and Tucker agreed on one thing, "Education on mental health is important, there are ways to cope and it's important that people know they are available in their community, we wanted to show that there is more than a dark side to mental health."

The session on coping boxes showed easy and simple ways to crest a box with items that help you cope when you feel stressed or under pressure.

Students attending the sessions didn't take long to get fully involved, and quickly realized that not only are there ways to develop good mental health but most of them can be fun, even exhilarating.

From Zumba to martial arts to painting and yoga, all of the sessions  were all well attended.

"We had 90 participants sign up," Smith said.

"Way beyond our expectations" chimed in Tucker.

In addition to students from Labrador City and Wabush, there were eleven participants from Postville, Rigolet, Cartwright, and Black Tickle.

Participants told the Aurora that they learned a lot they can share with others, and were made aware of the many resources that are available in communities.

Zach Hunt told the Aurora "I not only learned a lot about what's available to help people develop good mental health, but plan to share it with others".

Erica Jacque of Postville told the Aurora "Not only did I meet lots of great people but I learned a lot about dealing with mental stress."

Emily Smith of Wabush said "It was a good event, I attended painting and laughter sessions, I learned how to relax."

Ocean Shiwak of Rigolet told the Aurora "It was an eye opening experience, learning to cope with stress is something we all need to do."

As students gathered for lunch midway through the Saturday sessions, there was an unexpected surprise. Each participant got a letter from a parent or guardian.

Many, by the number of tears and smiles In the room, made aware just how special they are to all those who care about them.

It was a busy and intense, but extremely successful first event of its kind in Labrador West.

Organizers have already hinted that they would like this to be an annual event, with even greater participation from other parts of Labrador, and hope to make that happen.

Given the overwhelming positive response by participants, presenters, organizers and the community it looks like people will be “Minding their minds" and keeping them healthy, for a long time in Labrador.