The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee (MYAC) is observing mental health week at Niagara Falls high schools in May, featuring trivia and prizes, a photo booth and dogs from Therapy Tails Ontario.
Public high schools will participate from May 7 to 11 and catholic high schools will follow suit from May 14 to 17.
Bianca Marcella, 17, is serving her second year on MYAC and has been working with its Giving Back sub-committee to organize the event.
“You hear in the media, mental health is such a big topic of discussion lately,” said the Saint Paul Catholic High School student.
She said the trivia will help educate students about mental health while the therapy dogs will help alleviate students' stress. Buttons and water bottles saying “think well, feel well, be well” will be given out as prizes.
Sonia Aggarwal, 17, another Grade 11 student at Saint Paul Catholic High School, said mental health week is important because she thinks students know about mental illness but “don’t really know how to handle it.”
She said this event will inform them “how they can help themselves, how they can help their friends and family members.”
Beth Angle, a community development coordinator of recreation and culture for the city of Niagara Falls, works as a staff liaison to help MYAC develop and implement its plans.
Angle said the mental health leads at both public and catholic school boards reviewed the trivia questions before the event to ensure they would not trigger anxiety in any students struggling with mental illness.
She said the trivia focuses on resilience and coping methods, “so they’re more about being well than anything.”
According to Angle, MYAC has been advocating for mental health for five years, “because they see (mental illness) in their friends and they see there’s not always resources available.”
MYAC's mandate is to provide “a voice for the youth of Niagara Falls, while advising council of important recreational and social issues concerning the city’s younger population.”
Youth can find out how to get involved at, niagarafalls.ca.