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Teens Draw on Experience to Create Mental Health Program for High Schools

Students use storytelling and art to engage peers in discussing stress, anxiety and resilience

By Andrea Gordon

The girl with the ponytail and hightop sneakers looks like any other teenager as she grabs a book from her locker and trudges down the corridor to class.

But the whisper of a violin signals there’s more going on behind the scene. Over the course of the next 13 minutes on film, the girl will race through a forest and gasp for breath. She will cross a stream on stepping stones and peer into a dark tunnel. She will flail underwater, pirouette in a sunlit barn and finally, end up on the shore of a peaceful lake.

This is Warrior Within, a fictional short film for high school students that explores stress, anxiety and resilience. It’s the centrepiece of a new project — by students and for students — to create engaging mental health curriculum at a time when rates of depression and other conditions are increasingly common among children and teens.

For the youth behind it, “this is what we wish we’d been taught,” says Jonah Davids, a grade 12 student at Toronto Prep School. He’s one of 10 students from three Toronto private schools collaborating on curriculum to accompany the film, under the supervision of guidance counsellor Catherine Wachter.

“If you want to learn about mental health (issues), who better to teach you than a guidance teacher and a bunch of teens who’ve experienced it and survived,” says Davids.

Read the full article at thestar.com