Fatima Abbas, 15; Bhaag Gill, 17; Justin Persaud, 17; Riley McMahon, 17; Emma McLachlan, 17; and Head of Student Services Marisa Mariella, 53
Members of the Celtic Circle at Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School in Hannon, Ont.
They stomp out the stigma surrounding mental illness.
By Katie Hewitt
In high school, reputation is everything – and mental illness tends to have a bad one. “No one should be judged for something that’s out of their control,” says Michaela Kelly. The Grade 12 student is a member of Celtic Circle, a peer group at Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School in Hannon, Ont., that is working to encourage dialogue and dispel stereotyping through iMatter: Taking Care of Teen Mental Health.
Given by the group’s 30 or so peer mentors, the lessons are delivered to the school’s Grade 9 religion classes. Through them, the younger students confront personal biases, build empathy and meet special guest speakers who’ve lived with mental illness.
iMatter launched at Bishop Ryan in September 2013, facilitated by Marisa Mariella, head of student services. Celtic Circle has since spoken to close to 2,000 students and won a YMCA Peace Medal and the Sharon Johnston Champion of Mental Health Award for Youth.
Member Riley McMahon is confident that iMatter will have a “domino effect” as graduates take lessons from them. “In 10 years, mental health isn’t going to carry a stigma.”