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Creating Welcoming Spaces for People with Anxiety

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Using icebergs as a metaphor, Carrie emphasized that our presentations of nervousness and anxiety are only a small part of what is going on beneath the surface.

By Ruthie Cowper Szamosi, Linden Teacher and Guidance Counselor

Anxiety is an increasingly prevalent problem amongst Canadian youth. The Association of Anxiety Disorders of Ontario includes the two following facts:

  • Only one in six people under the age of 19 is properly diagnosed, and only one in five individuals under the age of 12 years receives adequate treatment.
  • Mental health and mental illness can affect an individual’s well-being throughout his or her entire life.
  • Positive mental health is correlated with a higher likelihood of completing school, positive social relations, higher levels of self-confidence and increased resilience in youth and young adults.

Recently, Carrie Clayton from Integra, a branch of the Child Development Institute (CDI), was invited to speak at Linden about how to make our community safe and welcoming for people with anxiety. She talked about where anxiety comes from, the different ways that anxiety can present itself, and the fact that we often can't tell what the people around us are facing or dealing with on the inside. It was a meaningful presentation that emphasized compassion and empathy and gave faculty and students some strategies to check in with our peers and support each other.

Her workshop also sparked lively and important conversations about the need for inclusive and sensitive language. Afterward, students said that they appreciated how open and accepting she was of everyone, particularly when she started off by saying that she encouraged different levels of engagement with the presentation, from quiet listening to active participation. Students also enjoyed how knowledgeable and passionate she was about helping people and how excited she was to present to us.

"The more we know about anxiety as a community, the better we will be able to identify it and provide appropriate support," said Principal Janice Gladstone after the workshop. "Our students benefit from learning about anxiety and mental health in two major ways: first, deepening their understanding paves the way for them to be more compassionate and supportive of each other and second, talking openly about the importance and prevalence of mental health issues reduces the stigma, encourages students to seek help, and lets them know they are not alone. We were pleased to have the worker from Integra come and speak with the girls," she added. 

More about Integra

In 2014, CDI and the Integra Foundation amalgamated, bringing together two like-minded children's mental health agencies. As a result of this partnership, CDI is now the only accredited children's mental health agency providing evidence-informed, therapeutic programs and services to children, youth and their families who are dealing with mental health issues complicated by learning disabilities (LDMH). The Integra Program provides family-centred, evidence-informed, direct clinical services to children and youth ages 8 to 18.