St. James Social Justice Club plans mental health events this week

GUELPH – The St. James Catholic High School Social Justice Club has turned its focus on providing the St. James community with support to help boost mental health and wellbeing.

Each month the Social Justice Club focuses on a different theme and in January, the club turned to ways to promote positive mental health.

“January can be a challenging month with the short days and the stress of the end of a quadmester, as well as the added stress and change to routine that the pandemic has created,” stated Bree Chaput, teacher advisor for the club, in a press release.

Mental health is also the focus of Bell Let’s Talk day on Jan. 28 – a day that raises money and awareness for mental health initiatives, which also aligns with the student project.

“We had decided on this theme before we knew we would all be learning at home, but when we found out we thought that this theme is even more important. With this change in routine and not being able to connect with peers at school, we need to ensure we are taking care of all aspects of our health and getting the support we need,” Chaput said.

Over the course of January, the club released a video that includes messages of hope, ideas for different activities that students can do at home to boost their mental health and supports that they can access if they feel they need support or someone to talk to.

“Investigating ways to boost our mental health is an important theme, especially because we are once again separated from our loved ones due to the COVID – 19 pandemic during this stay-at-home order,” said Social Justice Club member Valeria Monterroza Prieto.

“Being at home for so long, having sports and events cancelled, and learning at home virtually really took a toll on me in the beginning of the pandemic. Our mental health affects us in so many ways and it’s super important to be taking care of it just like we would anything else.”

She added, “Giving our school community suggestions and ideas on how to boost their mental is great because it reminds everyone that they’re not alone and that other people are feeling the same things as them.”

Monterroza Prieto and fellow Social Justice Club member Kimberly Russell shared some strategies they use when they feel stressed or overwhelmed.

Monterroza Prieto lists going for walks outside, stretching or doing some form of exercise as things she does to help clear her head. She also finds making a gratitude list is helpful.

“I find that taking time to list what you’re grateful for can help keep things in perspective and help me not to focus on everything going wrong. It can be something as small as my socks or something like being grateful for a specific person or activity,” she said.

Russell says positive self-affirmation, plus keeping a journal are strategies that work for her.

“Start every day by looking in the mirror and say (out loud) positive things about yourself, including, but not limited to, ‘I love you’ and ‘I matter’,” she said.

“Start a journal – anytime you feel stressed or down you can write in it about how you’re feeling and encouraging things.

“When the journal is full, you can either burn it (safely) as a symbol of letting go of the past or keep it to remind yourself of your journey.”

The club has planned the following events leading up to Bell Let’s Talk Day, Jan. 28:

  • on Jan. 25 it held a meditation activity led by Yvonne Runstedler, a religion consultant and teacher, that was open to anyone in the school community;
  • posting pictures on Instagram and Twitter with speech bubbles sharing encouraging words and strategies for boosting mental health throughout the week; and
  • continuing to hold virtual meetings while classes are remote. Students are invited to attend. Meetings are led by student leaders.

Follow the official St. James for Justice accounts on Instagram and Twitter to keep updated on future events.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell will donate five cents for every applicable text, call, tweet or TikTok video using #BellLetsTalk, to mental health initiatives. More details can be found at