2019 Scholarship - BC Shortlist - Hayley Carolan

Mental Health in Schools: 2019 Scholarship Finalist (BC)

Hayley Carolan

University of British Columbia – BSc Psychology – 2020

“Canadians are suffering from [mental] health conditions that are preventable or manageable with the right supports,”

This disheartening statement, from Dr. Patrick Smith, national CEO, of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), highlights the need for increased preventative mental healthcare measures in Canada.

In fact, the CMHA cites that each year, over 1.6 million Canadians report unmet mental health care needs, an issue that may continue to worsen, as the prevalence of mental illnesses rises in Canada and wait times to see mental health specialists remain stagnant.

Fortunately, preventative and early intervention programs, such as BC’s Bounce Back online workshop, have been shown to facilitate reductions in the severity of mood disorders, including anxiety disorders and depression- the most common mental illnesses in Canada.

As an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia, I’ve seen the distressing effects of mental illness on my peers’ lives and the difficulties that can emerge in treating persistent disorders.

However, I am glad to note, that as I study toward a career in Clinical Psychology, I’ve learnt that early interventions can be very effective in reducing the severity of many mental health issues, and the suffering that they cause.

This is why, as a Clinical Psychologist, I plan to work with school boards to design and implement educational programs that teach the basics of mental health, to people in their earliest of stages of life: elementary school students.

My hope is that my program would provide children with a foundation of mental health literacy, on which to develop their mental wellness as they grow into adolescents and adults. I envision that the program would be delivered in the classroom, through weekly story-based lessons, with themes pertinent to the children’s developmental stage. The story would be followed by applied, “hands-on” activates where children could practice the skills, like resilience and self acceptance, that the story had taught.

In addition to mental health basics, my program would take a holistic view to mental health and would encourage children to engage in the key building blocks of mental wellness. With school garden activities the program would encourage nutritious diets, with nature walk field trips it would encourage active lifestyles and by pairing younger learner with older students it would encourage strong support networks.

It is my hope that through these types of early contact systems, and other preventative health care measures, children will develop the skills necessary to mitigate the detrimental effects of future mental heath challenges.