Gulf Islands Secondary School hosted its first Wellness Summit on Thursday, with a full day of events devoted to supporting mental health in students put together by the Leadership Class.
The school-wide forum included an opening keynote address for the entire school followed by a vast set of workshops for which students registered according to their individual interests.
“This is a summit for youth by youth. Our expectations for the workshops are that they will be interactive and work from the principle that as youth, students are the experts on their own mental wellness,” a press release from the Leadership Class explained. “We have invited facilitators with real life experiences to share and the ability to guide students in leading their own discussions, instead of approaching issues with theories and statistics alone.
“We want to host this summit as a means for students and adults to have meaningful conversations regarding subjects that are otherwise rarely discussed.”
The summit kicked off with an informative and engaging presentation by Andrea Paquette, the executive director and founder of the Stigma-Free Society (formerly the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia). Paquette was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 25 and went on to reclaim her life as the “Bipolar Babe.” She has now spoken to around 1,200 students as part of a campaign to educate and remove the stigma around mental illness.
“I’m here to give you this information because it’s valuable and this is the right time to learn it. You’re the right age,” Paquette said.
Paquette grounded the talk in her own life experiences, spreading the message that people with mental illness should be awarded the same respect and dignity that would be given to someone who has a purely physical injury.