Norwell team conducts research on mental health among students

North Wellington Youth Spotlight focuses on positive stories about young people in local communities. The features are provided by Erin Raftis, municipal youth intern for Minto, Mapleton, and Wellington North – #positivityFromYouthForYouth.

MINTO – A group of hard-working youths, Sadie-Lyn Bieman, 18, from Harriston, and Paxton Klaasen, 19, Sarah McIntyre, 18, Sierra Martin, 18, from Moorefield, spent a semester uncovering issues related to mental health of students at Norwell District Secondary School, through their human growth and development class.

In conjunction with the Town of Minto, students chose a topic on which to collect, compile and analyze data. These reports  on a wide range of topics have since been used by the Town of Minto to create action plans which will implement actual change within the communities affected.

Bieman, Paxton, Klaasen and McIntyre felt more research needed to be done on mental health and focused on that area.

“Mental health is something everyone deals with or knows somebody going through the struggles,” McIntyre explained, adding she “is really interested in how students were personally feeling and wanted to find out how the school system and town could help relieve stress for the students.”

Their surveys took a unique form, utilizing students’ connection to their cell phones by sending their surveys via text, so it was convenient for participants to answer.

Over the week of May 13 to 19, roughly 40 participants were sent a text at different times of days, to determine where students’ stress levels were at that moment, and to later analyze the trends.

Klassan states she was motivated by the uniqueness of the project, as their text surveys really helped them understand how stress impacts various students of Norwell, on a personal level.

The four youths indicated they hope the town will use their data to implement ideas and programs that will promote youth’s mental health.

Martin commented their “research can normalize mental health” as it “encourages students to talk about how they felt and why.” She emphasized the importance of starting the conversation and how the more mental health is discussed, the more comfortable students will be with accepting help.

Bieman adds that “it really did help students to have an outlet to express what was making them stressed or upset, knowing their identity would be kept anonymous.”

Bieman pointed out that a student had asked her to stop sending the survey as the survey itself was stressing them out. However, when Bieman asked the student to elaborate on their stress, they took advantage of the anonymous platform to share their stress with someone, and ended up responding to every survey after that.

Not only did this project benefit the community they researched, but the girls themselves learned about stress, how people deal with it differently, how excessively stressed youth today are, and how much it affects how someone is feeling on a day-to-day basis.

Martin sums up the importance of this project this way: “mental health is a topic that can be easily brushed aside due to it being so personal. [It] creates a lot of barriers and can be very difficult as a community to come up with safe and practical solutions.”

She said she believes, “it’s important to ask students who may be struggling with what they deal with on a day-to-day basis”.

Through the collection of students’ data, these youths are making positive change for others just like themselves in their communities, proving you are never too young to make a difference.

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