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Richmond students raise voices for mental health awareness

Local students are encouraging their classmates to speak up when they need help.
Cambie secondary students Priya Mahil (left) and Elvin Allado in front of a kindness wall at the school's mental health fair.

Students at a Richmond high school hosted a fair to support student voices around mental health.

HJ Cambie Secondary Grade 12 students Elvin Allado and Priya Mahil are part of the school's mental health promotion club, which aims to encourage students to speak up about mental health and to learn ways the community can help those who feel isolated.

Mental health is still a topic that many students still need to learn and understand, according to Allado and Mahil.

“Everyone should be provided with the knowledge and a voice to be able to speak up about this. (Mental health) is quite common, and a lot of people don’t understand that,” said Mahil.

Allado added that mental health is an aspect of life that impacts everything and everyone around a person.

“If we don’t talk about mental health and if we don’t bring awareness to it, there’s going to be an ever-growing stigma, which will hinder people from actually accessing support to actually save their lives.”

The fair, titled Beyond the Blues, is part of the Canadian Mental health Association’s Mental Health Week initiative.

This year’s theme is empathy and reminding people not to judge others while putting themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Cambie students had a kindness board with encouraging words and phrases on sticky notes at the fair.

Allado told the Richmond News that the board was a way for students to share encouraging words with their peers, and for those who needed them, to take a quote as well.

Meanwhile, local groups and organizations such as CHIMO, Foundry, Touchstone and Richmond Addiction Services also had booths to share information about mental health services with students.

There are common misconceptions around mental health, the pair says, specifically around services.

“Most people think that they’re not accessible, or that they’re far away, but there is always help somewhere online, somewhere in the community and they’re not actually that hard to find,” said Mahil.

Allado added that many people battling mental health think they are facing it alone. However, that is not the case.

“It’s a social issue that we have to address and bring to the forefront of our district and government officials and that we’re all here to help,” according to Allado.

“People who are experiencing a mental illness are being shunned out from society and seen as abnormal, but it’s really completely normal to experience something mentally because we all have mental health.”

The students also told the News that their school plans to create an Instagram page, in collaboration with the Richmond School District, to combat misinformation around mental health.

The page, they said, will have posts about mental health facts and support links.

“We’re excited to bring mental health conversations into our school and expand it to other schools as well.”