My Experience at the Mental Health Summit in Calgary, Canada

by Adam Turnbull

On May 17th, 2024, I attended the Mental Health Summit hosted by Headwater Learning at Calgary Academy. This full-day event, featuring over 250 attendees and 30 vendors, was a deep dive into mental health in education.

The sessions provided a wealth of knowledge about the urgent need for mental wellness in schools, especially in light of the significant burnout and high turnover rates among K12 teachers. Dr. Molly Stewart Lawlor from the Goldie Hawn Foundation highlighted the systemic approach required for effective SEL, focusing on the learning context, educators’ well-being, and students’ social-emotional skills. Techniques like mindfulness, brain breaks, and positive psychology activities such as the “3 good things” exercise were practical tools emphasized for everyday use.

I found it fascinating to hear from Jennifer Turner and Sharon Friesen from the University of Calgary as they presented a framework for implementing and evaluating mental health supports that addresses common challenges such as insufficient qualified staff and the need for authentic partnerships. Their insights stressed the importance of building robust support systems within educational institutions.

Reflecting on these insights, it’s clear that mental health is a cornerstone of educational success. To address this, professional development programs must integrate mental health and well-being into all aspects of education. This means including mental wellness training in all initiatives, from STEM to leadership development, ensuring that educators are equipped not only with academic skills but also with tools to manage stress and support their students’ mental health.

Incorporating regular mindfulness exercises, promoting positive psychology, and providing resources for both educators and students can create a more supportive and effective learning environment. Moreover, developing strong frameworks for evaluating the impact of these programs will help in refining and improving them over time.

The Mental Health Summit was an enlightening experience that reinforced the critical role of mental health in education. By integrating mental wellness into our PD programs, we can support educators, improve student outcomes, and foster a healthier, more resilient school community.

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