Focus on Mental Health

By Ashley Bunn
School Counselor, Early Childhood - Grade 8

As a school counselor for the past five years, two of those being at Canterbury School, one thing I can say for certain is that this role requires the use of many hats. Each day brings a variety of needs, and year-to-year the goal remains the same: to support all students, staff, and families.

When the pandemic hit, our Canterbury family went into survival mode. We had to learn how to navigate uncharted waters and with that came an abundance of strong emotions, challenges, and changes to our daily lives. The mental health of our students really took the hot seat.

The past two years have been an exciting journey to accomplish some important goals surrounding the social-emotional and mental health of our school community. I spent a lot of time getting to know the students, running small groups (social skills, worries, grief, friendship, growth mindset), conducting monthly classroom guidance lessons, meeting one-on-one with students, and creating a virtual counseling room to reach remote students. The Chapel lessons I prepared this year focused primarily on identifying feelings, coping with strong emotions, and conflict resolution. These goals allowed me to build rapport with students and break the stigma surrounding seeing a counselor.

For our staff in the Lower School, I lead a professional development on how to support our students’ emotional regulation and coping skills in the classroom. The goal of these discussions was to help raise awareness on the importance of taking care of our mental health while also learning how to further support all our students.

Canterbury is determined to support the mental health needs of our students and one step in this direction was with the implementation of REDgen this year – a high school, student-led, peer-to-peer resilience program that has been working on raising mental health awareness on our campus.

Our REDgen students’ first order of business has been meeting monthly with Grade 7 and Grade 8 students discussing academics and mental health.

Canterbury also welcomed Remedy Live (Get Schooled Presentation) to our entire campus this year to talk with all students and families about mental health.

The mental health of our students will remain a priority and will be reinforced in the years to come by expanding lessons into Middle School and Early Childhood. During Health Emphasis Week there will be more focus on mental health, and our REDgen students have an abundance of ideas they are passionate about implementing.

We all face challenges at some point in our lives, more so now than ever, and our mental health should be assessed daily. We are a Canterbury family that sticks together and leans on each other for support through good times and bad.

REDgen: Resilience through EDucation for a new generation

Canterbury Lower School Director Mike Landgraf has been involved with REDgen since it started in 2013, and he knew it would be an excellent fit for the Canterbury community.

“I discovered quickly that Canterbury School is a wonderfully supportive community,” Landgraf says. “Standards and expectations are high, which is good. However, we all need to be aware that these high expectations need to be balanced with the appropriate support and recognition that all children are different. Everyone handles these expectations differently, and we need to make it clear to all students that their well being and positive mental health is the most important thing.”