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Stomping Out the Stigma - A Teacher's Perspective
A Teacher's Perspective
Stomping out the Stigma, One Conversation at a Time
By Francesca Reganato, Grade 5 Humanities
The effects of mental illness are felt by so many adults and children, no matter where they may live or what they may do. As a teacher, there have been times when the effects of mental illness march right into the classroom. Over the years, some of my students have been able to articulate their thoughts about how this disease affects them, while other students have not been able to express their feelings with the same exactness. In any of those cases, the need for encouragement, love, and support have always been necessary.
When the opportunity to join a cause like Ramsey Stigma Free Committee arose, I knew that it was one I could not pass up. Having recently suffered the loss of a dear friend to mental illness, there were many personal and professional reasons that inspired me to be a part of such an important movement. Working to end the stigma associated with mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, is not a task that can be done overnight. Through this committee’s work, the ability to talk openly with peers, colleagues, and neighbors had begun.
Meeting for the first time as a committee of colleagues including administrators, teachers, counselors, and other staff members, the feeling of hope could be felt by all that were in the room. Sharing about our own experiences and thoughts regarding mental illness allowed us to relate to one another and understand even further how important our work on this committee would be for our students and community. Through our conversations at that meeting and all those that have followed, the realization that erasing the stigma of mental illness would not be easy was apparent, but by no means was it going to stop the hard work we were going to do.
Creating awareness has been one of our biggest goals. Our committee members, while dressed in green, have been present since the start of the school year at school functions, board meetings, and community events. It has been amazing to be a part of such an effort. The feeling that comes with knowing that even one person is more comfortable talking about his or her mental well being than before is truly indescribable. The committee’s hard work and passion for stomping out the stigma of mental illness has also included planning activities for our Mental Health Awareness Day, including the Stigma Free Walk and Talk a Thon. The ideas from all the committee’s members were outstanding and inspiring. Our hope is that this day truly allows for conversations about mental health to begin, and as the days and weeks go on for those conversations to continue throughout our schools and our community.
Being a member of this committee has been a fulfilling, eye opening, and remarkable experience. Learning about my colleagues and community members through a different lens has allowed me to understand how truly alike so many of us really are, and even more importantly, how our similarities can help us give each other the support and kindness we all need and deserve on a daily basis. I can only hope that Ramsey’s efforts to stomp out the stigma continue and grow, and I will most definitely continue to be on the frontlines of this important battle.