By Stephen Dafoe
Namao – With the books put away and the students gone for the weekend, local teachers gathered in the Sturgeon Composite High School gymnasium Friday night for a little bit of dodge ball and a great deal of fun.
The tournament pitted teachers from various schools in the Sturgeon School Division against one another, each school donning a different themed costume. But the costumes, while jovial on the surface, were put on to raise funds and awareness for a serious issue.
With the tag line Don’t Dodge the Truth on Mental Health, area teachers sought to raise funds and awareness of mental health issues during the evening’s outing.
“We have a lot of mental health stereotypes,” said Sturgeon Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) Local No. 27 Vice President Thomas Holmes. “When people talk about mental health, all of a sudden they think about the big mental health disorders. A lot of the time in the news you hear about dangerous offenders that have a mental health disorder. The fact is that people with mental health issues and concerns are no more dangerous than anyone else.”
Holmes said the primary goal of the event was to raise awareness because there are many students within all of the schools that deal with mental health concerns, many as simple as the stress and anxiety many youth face today.
“While teachers aren’t engaging in therapy in the classroom or anything like that, they’re often the first responders – the first person to recognize that perhaps there may be an issue with the child and that the child needs support,” Holmes said, noting schools have a number of resources at hand to work with students, families and community organizations on mental health concerns. “We have the family / school liaison program which is a joint project between Sturgeon School Division and, I believe, the County. There’s also Morinville Mental Health. So we’re trying to engage some of those community organizations in supporting these students.”
Teachers paid a $5 registration fee to participate in Friday night’s dodge ball tournament. Holmes said $350 was raised during the event.
Local 27 is looking to hold a second sports event in the spring in support of mental health. Holmes said the union will be participating in a ball tournament called Pitching Away Mental Health Stereotypes.
They are hoping to raise a total of $1,000 between the two events with the monies to be donated to the Alberta chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMA). The ATA recently won an award for their partnership with the CMA.