Considerations for Youth Champions Network Training and Workshop
The Youth Champions Network Training and Workshop is the foundation of the YMHAC Initiative. Dedicate adequate time to take care of key considerations to ensure a well-coordinated, effective day.
It is essential that principals endorse this Initiative in order to ensure teacher involvement, and extracurricular support by other staff and parents/guardians. See Section 4.1 for more information.
Selection of participating schools may involve many points of consideration such as:
- Interest and passion in developing mental health and well-being initiatives in their school;
- Strong Healthy Schools Committee with student involvement;
- Strong existing mental health awareness initiatives;
- Special High Schools Major program in health/ wellness; and
- Existing collaboration with Public Health (i.e., Healthy Schools).
Public Health and Mental Health Leads should work together to oversee the logistical elements of the training/workshop and ensure all schools participating are aware of their roles and responsibilities for the day. They should also, with input from the Youth Leads, help secure space, oversee registration and communication to participating schools.
Supporting youth leads for participation in workshop delivery
Ensure School Staff Leads and Public Health Staff set aside adequate time to meet with Youth Leads prior to Champion Training/Workshop to:
- Help students prepare for their part of the workshop;
- Link to main workshop organizers (Public Health and/or Mental Health Leads) for additional information; and
- Provide any additional orientation prior to the event.
Supporting champions for participation in workshop delivery
Youth Leads will use knowledge and skills gained from their training to help support the Champions in preparing their portion of the workshop; Public Health Staff and School Staff Leads may assist as well. Consider inviting other schools to prepare an icebreaker or share what they are currently doing at their school to support mental health and well-being.
Psychological safety of student participants
Given that mental health and mental illness can be a sensitive topic for some, organizers need to consider how to support the psychological safety of student and adult participants. The YMHAC Initiative recommends developing a Psychological Safety Plan that entails appointing an Adult Safety Lead and a Student Safety Lead, along with following key intervention steps to support youth who experience psychological distress during YMHAC training. Additional safety considerations include:
- Flagging sensitive topics;
- Establishing a relaxation space or “chill zone” for students who may be triggered by content;
- Enlist the support of school board mental health professionals and public health nurses to participate in the Champions training/workshop as well as offer counselling support if the need arises;
- Allowing students to opt out of participating in various activities;
- Be aware of locally based resources for support, including calling them to notify them of the training; and
- Be aware of provincially based resources, such as Connexx Ontario and Kids Help Phone, and including resources on all documents.
The following details can make or break a successful Youth Champions Network Training and Workshop day.
Teacher release time
School boards will need to discuss costs associated with teacher release time locally, and determine how to support this valuable initiative, which intersects many board initiatives (e.g., mental health, safe schools, student success, etc.).
Give thought to finding a central or regional location for training, one that is accessible for all, and that offers space that allows for a wide range of interactive activities in various locations and can accommodate food for lunch and breaks.
Plan to have busing and/or public transportation, and adequate parking.
Date and timing
Consider avoiding events on Fridays and Mondays to ensure opportunity for follow-up exists and to maximize attendance. Also take into account the timing in the school year, (i.e., exams, various religious/cultural holidays, system wide events, etc.). Look for opportunities to incorporate the training into another theme week (e.g., Children’s Mental Health week in May). And ensure adequate timing between recruiting leaders and workshop delivery to allow sufficient group development and planning.
Make sure you share event details with everyone, including sending out frequent reminders of upcoming meetings and sessions to increase attendance.