-2.2 C
Monday, January 30, 2023
Mental health, screen time and vaping: Forum enlightens Grade 8 students


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As Grade 8 students get ready to transition into high school, keeping their academic and personal lives in balance may be hard. This is where a mental health and wellness conference came in handy.

Organized by Lord Mayor’s youth advisory council, the second annual conference came back to NOTL Monday morning featuring four hands-on workshops and four speakers.

About 120 students from three local schools – Crossroads Public School, St. Davids Public School and St. Michael Catholic Elementary School – filled the auditorium of NOTL community centre.

Retired brain scientist and psychologist Ron Clavier, who now lives in NOTL, was the keynote speaker this year.

One of the topics Clavier talked about was screen time and how it can damage the brain. By debunking a popular myth that humans use only 10 per cent of their brains, Clavier emphasized the importance of early sleep and reducing time spent in front of computers or cellphones.

Another topic, which Clavier covered at the conference, touched upon anxiety. Clavier said “knowledge, confidence and certainty” are anxiety’s enemies.

“Never avoid anxiety. Deal with it,” he told the students. “Don’t use drugs to escape anxiety. Protect yourself.”

The Town, along with Clavier and The Rotary Club of Niagara-on-the-Lake, funded the conference by providing four school buses, said Victoria Steele, town’s community engagement co-ordinator.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero addressed the students in the morning, highlighting the importance of broadening horizons as well as making connections and networks.

After Jaclyn Willms of Niagara Fit conducted a short warmup in the morning, students split into four groups attending four different workshops.

Melissa Dunlop from the Niagara North Family Health Team spoke about nutrition and the importance of keeping blood sugar levels stable. Using interactive activities, she talked how food choices can affect people’s mood and vice versa.

Daniella Lock, a health promoter with the Niagara Region, and Megan Ardiel, a public school nurse for the Niagara Region, talked about vaping and smoking. Smoking e-cigarettes is heavily marketed to young people and once they get addicted to vaping, which contains e-juice made of nicotine, they become long-time customers, Ardiel told the students.

The new addition to this year’s conference was a workshop creating vision boards. For young people, it’s easy to lose sight of what they want, said Karen Post of Red Roof Retreat. By creating a vision board – a collection of pictures or affirmations – students lay out a path of what they would like to do in the future and give their subconscious a direction where to go, said Post.

Isabelle Hendricks, a Grade 8 Crossroads student, said she found the conference to be helpful.

“It gives a new insight on how people relate to different things,” she said adding her favourite session was making the vision board as it is “a creative way to show your inspirations.”

Lisa Mayer, a Grade 8 teacher at St. Michael’s Elementary School, said she liked the topic on vaping the most.

“I think the choices of the topics for this age group is phenomenal. I’ve been teaching in Grade 8 for 20 years so they’re keeping up with the times and they’re bringing it to their level, what’s applicable for them,” she told The Lake Report. “I think that’s awesome.”

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