Written by Mireya Mata
I will never forget one Christmas day at the early stages of my teaching career. I was on a train with my family to Montreal. One of the necessities to surviving the demands of being a classroom teacher, is learning when to disconnect from work and your students. This may sound selfish to some and very easy to others, but it’s not. In order for me to mentally and emotionally be present with my family I cannot be thinking about school, specially when we are on holidays. I didn’t want to think about my marking or who still owed me work...so I disconnected. Sitting on that train, I felt like something was not right. Did I leave my hair straightener on, did I forget my bathing suit? No and No. Something was not right! Intuitively I opened my email and there it was. I felt my blood pressure drop and I started hysterically crying. I had to read the email at least three times before it sunk in. I got up and told my family we needed to get off the train. That moment, that second.
My mom got me to sit down and began helping me process what I had just read. She read the email and finally understood the severity of this issue. One of my favourite students had confessed his troubles at home and was determined to kill himself after the email was sent. He had managed to get my email from my classroom website and shared his painful secret with me. I immediately called CAS and other authorities but I was in a panic thinking the worst. Was he gone? Were there any signs that I missed? What the fuck...I just needed to get off the train. We were near Kingston at that point and the authorities said they would update me or the school but that there was nothing I could do at this point. To say the least, that weekend I didn’t sleep and my anxiety was off the roof. I was haunted by a guilt that did not belong to me. I didn’t see it at that time, but I do now. I am so grateful he chose to speak up and ask for help. That email was a cry for help. In the end, the authorities got to him in time.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Check in with loved ones, especially the mental health status of children/youth. Are they feeling happy, connected and supported? Remind them that they are not alone. Weeks before this confession we spent some time talking about mental health. Having my own struggles with mental health, I knew the importance of embedding this topic into the curriculum.
Remove the stigma around mental health at home, school or within your social circles. Providing space and time to have meaningful conversations about mental health, bullying, stress/anxiety and addiction is important and necessary when speaking to our children. Keep the discussion going. Just by doing this you are making a difference.
What’s Up Walk In- www.whatsupwalkin.ca
Children’s Mental Health Ontario- https://www.cmho.org/
The ABC’s of Mental Health (the Hincks Delcrest Centre)- https://www.sickkidscmh.ca/ABC/Welcome
Canadian Mental Health Association- https://cmha.ca/
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health- http://www.camh.ca/
As an educator in the community and education system for more than 16 years, she has witnessed the increasing need for youth to find connection, self awareness and empowerment. She has a specialized background in working with children and teens, dealing with mental health issues, learning and behavioural challenges. Mireya has led workshops to support mindfulness, creativity, emotional intelligence, self- awareness and self-advocacy.
As a mom of a highly spirited son, she has put to practice many of the tools she shares with others. She has seen how a mindful lifestyle has influenced so many
children including her own become more confident, better at self-regulation and able to communicate their needs.