Waterloo Catholic board awarded for mental health initiatives

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board has received a national award for its contributions to mental health education and anti-stigma activities.

The school board has implemented the Elephant in the Room program at all age levels

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board received a national award for implementing the Elephant in the Room initiative across its schools. (Waterloo Catholic District School Board/Twitter)

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board has received a national award for its contributions to mental health education and anti-stigma activities.

The Mood Disorders Society of Canada presented the WCDSB with the Jordan James Pickell Mental Health Achievement Recognition Award on Wednesday.

The award is given to organizations that have engaged students and staff in accepting mental illness and recognizing the importance of mental health, Debbie Turner, program manager with the Mood Disorders Society of Canada told CBC News.

The WCDSB has implemented the Elephant in the Room in all its schools — 46 elementary schools, five secondary schools and four adult and continuing education campuses — and included in its strategic planning, Turner said.

Elephant in the Room is a campaign designed by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada that helps create safe spaces to talk about mental health.

"Saying it's OK to talk about mental health we don't have to keep those discussions behind closed doors," Turner said. "It's to enable people to say are you OK today, can I help?"

The WCDSB has created special materials aimed at younger students and a YouTube video for older students, Turner said, adding the board stood out because of its targeted messaging and wide-ranging implementation.

"It's not one school out of the board. It's the 50-plus schools and the board is acknowledging and putting it pen to paper and in strategic plans," Turner said.

The Jordan James Pickell Award was first given out in 2013 to COPE, a mental health initiative, at McMaster University.

In 2014, the award was given to the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario.

Turner said Pickell was someone who cared deeply about mental health. He died in 2011 and a donation from his estate helped create the award.

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