Archive for the ‘ Other ’ Category

Mental Health in Elementary Schools

I don’t normally cover anything school related here at the Fort McMurray Today, but thanks to a co-worker’s illness, had an opportunity to do just that a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, I might have passed on it if it was some fuzzy-wuzzy fundraiser story — not that I’m Satan and don’t support fundraisers, they’re just all the exact same to cover and if you’ve done one, you’ve done ’em all — but it happened to be about something that I was genuinely interested in learning more about.

Maybe I’m influenced by my own experiences through elementary, middle and high school, but I think almost all kids experience some varying degree of depression or anxiety at some point — or multiple points — between kindergarten and Grade 12. Of course, looking back now and weighing our current problems against being called into the principal’s office for throwing a snowball, we realize things weren’t so bad back then. But at the time, you felt like Tupac Shakur; “It’s just me against the world, baby.”

I had the opportunity to visit one of multiple schools in the Fort McMurray area that were implementing this FRIENDS Program, in order to help prevent depression and anxiety, or help kids deal with it better if they’re already going through it.

I had nothing like this when I was a kid.

I had a school counsellor who, as far as I know, was just “there if you needed her.” I can honestly say that I really have no idea what it was that she did at my elementary school, because I think the only time I ever saw her doing anything at all was when she was brought in for a brief Sex Ed lesson, and that was probably in the 6th Grade, I can’t really remember.

But you would think she would lend a hand or sit down to chat with a kid when he or she was being particularly troublesome, to try and find out what was going on. And believe me, I was “particularly troublesome,” and if you don’t believe me, I’ll be glad to provide some references.

There’s no doubt that I ultimately reached a point where I was depressed, and according to my mom, it was painfully obvious. But I still never saw the school counsellor; I don’t think it was even suggested to me that perhaps I should. I find myself wondering now what the difference was back then as opposed to now, when we have entire programs implemented in schools to help kids deal with depression and anxiety. Was it a more taboo subject back then? Was there not enough awareness to understand that, although their problems are comparatively more insignificant, kids can still be legitimately depressed? Maybe it was just the staff at my elementary school not doing their jobs.

During my interview with the psychologist I was shocked to hear her say that more kids now are coming forward and identifying themselves as having some sort of mental health issue. Maybe it’s kids that are different today.

I could speculate all day long about why mental health seems to be taken a lot more seriously today than it was 10 or 20 years ago, but more than anything I was just pleased to learn that something like the FRIENDS Program exists and is making a difference in the lives of the kids who need it.

Anyone who wants to weigh in on how mental health issues were handled in their schools, feel free to leave a comment, I’d be interested to hear.



We all have someone in our family who we look at when we’re young, before we really know who we are, and say, “I hope I’ve got even a tiny little bit of what he has, in me.”

I’m lucky to have more than one of those people in my family, but my grandpa Reg sits high up on that list.

I’m not sure that I ever once saw him upset or angry about anything at all. Maybe that was just because I’m his grandchild, but somehow I doubt it. Even in the final years of his life, suffering from a mixed bag of medical ailments, living in a care facility away from his wife of 62 years, he still had a better outlook on life than I did, and his sense of humour was as sharp as the fedora he always wore on his head.

But when I think of my grandpa, I don’t think of those years. That’s not how I’ll remember him. I think of pulling up to my grandparents’ cottage at Detroit Lakes after a four-hour drive, and seeing him sitting out back on a lawn chair in his bathing suit, shirt off, straw hat planted firmly on his head, toothpick in his mouth, and a cold beer in his hand, soaking up the sun.

I know that’s where he is right now.

I’ll always cherish the time I got spend with him, but especially being able to sit down with him last November and document his experiences and contributions during the Second World War. I sometimes wonder if he was too emotional, or simply too humble to really elaborate on the efforts he made while fighting for our country.

I can only hope that when my time here is up, I’m as loved, respected, and remembered as fondly as I know my grandpa is right now. He earned it.

Rest in peace, grandpa, I’ll see you again.

“It’s going to SPACE!”

It crossed my mind the other day how quickly people become dissatisfied with pretty much all aspects of their lives eventually, myself included.

I work as the city reporter for the Fort McMurray Today, and some days I’ll do nothing but cover a variety of topics that aren’t interesting to me whatsoever. And I’ll find myself thinking back to some of the outrageously fun work I had an opportunity to do at the Winnipeg Free Press a while back, and all of a sudden I’m saying, “I wish I was a sports writer,” or some other unnecessarily negative comment.

Luckily, I had the good sense to take it upon myself to remind… myself… of some of the jobs that I had to work before I went back to college.

The first job I ever had was when I was probably 14 or 15, and it was at The Chamois car wash in Winnipeg. I got the job for a couple of reasons: All of my friends had gotten jobs there and I wanted to work with them, and they all told me I’d be hired on the spot. Understandably, I had absolutely no business sense back then (compared to the bare minimum that I have today) and it didn’t occur to me that being hired literally five minutes after asking for an application was probably not a good sign.

What I understand now is that the turnover rate at that child-dominated sweatshop was through the roof, to the point that they were hiring whoever walked through the door.

I had the honour of working in “wipedown”, which meant that after the cars came through the wash, I got to wipe them down by hand, and get soaking wet in the process; I’m talking from head to toe. Well, a typical Winnipeg winter came around, as it usually does, and there I was, sending cars off through the giant garage doors, while standing a few feet away from -40, and a wind chill that practically had me on my knees trying to bargain with my creator.

Needless to say, I was glad to contribute to their high turnover rate.

But mostly I think about Boston Pizza, the last job I had before college, and ultimately my inspiration to go find a better life for myself. They treated me so poorly that I think my parents are still boycotting them back home.

But the point is, these are the places that I was forced to work when all I had was a high school education (or less). The 10-year old version of myself would punch me in the face if he heard me complain about ANYTHING work-related today. All I’ve ever wanted to do was write for a living, and now I do that every day. That should really be the only pertinent information.

Louis C.K. does a great job of pointing out flaws in humans like this, that most of us never even think of.

Here’s his take on all of the things that people take for granted these days, and it’s painfully accurate, and worth watching.

“How quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only 10 seconds ago.”