The Fort McMurray fire’s flames may have long since been put out, but the traumatic event still smoulders in the mind of the town and its citizens. They are well on their way to building new lives in Fort McMurray, but according to mental health professionals the trauma has impacted a large part of the population including youth.
Mellanie Fraser, Mental Health Coordinator at Fort McMurray Public Schools notes that the youth are affected in several ways. “Higher anxiety, definitely. They don’t know how to respond to things, so they are quick to anger, quick to get upset, quick to cry.” And to make matters worse there aren’t enough resources. “One of the biggest challenges I see is actually getting the support because we are a community [where] psychiatry and mental health do not have as many supports up here.”
The solution? Give students interested in the field more options and help to build the support system.
In partnership with the Red Cross, CAREERS: The Next Generation helped facilitate the development of a unique course to be offered in high schools throughout the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo. This program referred to as the Mental Health Pathway was developed by mental health professionals and educators to include a series of three pathways: Health Foundations, Health and Wellness and General Psychology. They were looking to build courses that matched the high school curriculum format. The course runs full semester length and ensures students can gain five credits towards their diplomas.
Deborah Kitching worked in facilitating course development and ensuring many topics were included that were both unique and interesting to high school students and emphasized many practical skills. These skills are extremely useful to students looking to work in the field. “We know that this course in itself will actually benefit them personally as well as give them ideas for the future.”
Course completion also gave students an advantage in finding experiential learning opportunities by giving them priority status as applicants when applying for mental health internships. This helps to promote students to continue their education and work within their community, which in turn creates a stronger foundation of support systems and services available to the people of Fort McMurray and its surrounding communities.
Check out the Mental Health Pathway video created for high school students (above).