Taylor Mahovlich knows as well as anybody the challenges facing today’s high school students.
That’s because Mahovlich only recently moved on from secondary school herself as one of Royal Bay secondary’s first class of graduates.
Now Mahovlich, who is in a gap year and is planning to enrol in a social work program at the University of Victoria this fall, is hoping to continue to make a difference for former schoolmates – and their parents – that might be struggling with a variety of issues.
For the second year running, Mahovlich is organizing Start the Conversation, a two-part event that gives students a clearer picture of what resources are available to them, and educates parents on how to address mental health issues with their kids.
Mahovlich spearheaded last year’s event after realizing it could have wide-ranging benefits for the rest of the Royal Bay student body. She hopes students can gain “the ability to talk more openly about mental health.”
“I feel it’s still stigmatized and it’s not talked about on a daily basis,” she said.
Her initiative is supported by the school, Royal Bay’s Youth for Change group and the Westshore Sooke Local Action Team that deals with mental health and substance abuse.
The first part of the Feb. 22 event will be an information for students where they will hear from groups such as the Umbrella Society, Stigma Free Society and Island Sexual Health. All of them will give students a better idea of what services are available for them.
“It’s really hard as an individual to find (those resources) yourself, so we just wanted to bring awareness to who they could contact,” said Mahovlich, adding that the opening of wellness centres in each of the Sooke School District’s high schools has been a big plus for local students.
Later on Feb. 22 (7 p.m.), parents and interested members of the community are invited to the school to sit in on a talk from occupational therapist Sean Boulet, who will discuss managing child and youth anxiety.
Parents will learn exposure-based and self-regulation tools and strategies to help reduce stress and anxiety.
Mahovlich, who hopes to work with children and youth in her future career, believes parents have a key role to play when their kids are dealing with mental health concerns. “I think a lot of kids just need to know that they have support, so I think that’s the biggest one. Just starting the conversation.”