Sudbury Catholic District School Board
March 03, 2022

Mental Health & Well-Being: Nurturing the Mind, Body, and Spirit 

Director's Corner

The Sudbury Catholic District School Board is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment where students and staff can thrive while maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing. Through initiatives such as Bell Let’s Talk, Bullying Awareness Day and regular activities like universal classroom sessions, that are created for building capacity and using a common language, staff, students, and families can develop the tools they need to achieve success personally, emotionally, and academically. Please save the date for upcoming parent/educator sessions held by Zoom from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. – March 23 with Dan Pehar on Cybersafety; May 3rd with Sam Demma – Small Actions can Make a Big Impact; and May 18 – Mental Health and Wellbeing. Details will be posted at

Connecting Virtually

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has indicated that winter can often be a difficult time for different people with the ongoing challenges of cold weather and the holiday season. With COVID-19 affecting how we live and learn, this time of year may be even more difficult. Keeping these challenges in mind it is essential to support our community and provide opportunities to connect and address mental health and well-being. Throughout the months of January and February, we have offered engaging webinars and virtual presentations, along with many events and practices that took place in our schools. 

Coping with Stress Wellness Webinar 

On Wednesday, Jan 19, SCDSB hosted a wellness webinar. At this presentation, two guest presenters, Alina Rukkila MSW, RSW and Jessie Jones CYW, discussed dealing with the different types of stress and provided healthy coping strategies that individuals could use to help them cope successfully. Though stress has a connotation of being negative, this presentation helped demonstrate that this is not always the case. We explored positive types of stress that can help with focus, motivation, and goal setting; and harmful types of stress that cause a whirlwind of negative emotions, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and emotionally and physically vulnerable. Ultimately, the presentation effectively demonstrated the importance of identifying the causes of daily stress and offered coping strategies that our community can incorporate to improve how we manage it in life.

Bell Let’s Talk Day 

The Mental Health Team provided school resources and opportunities to encourage educators to participate in initiatives that tackle and address the importance of Mental Health. On January 26th, 2022, our schools participated in Bell Let’s Talk Day – an awareness day centred on helping to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. 

Bell Let’s Talk Day aims to help create a safe place for students and staff to join the conversation on talking about mental health and how it impacts us. At Sudbury Catholic Schools, we emphasize the importance of talking about mental health and well-being as a year-round topic. We use Bell Let’s Talk Day as a platform to help demonstrate the services students can access and what we continue to provide within our schools to bring greater awareness towards Mental Health no matter the time of year. 

In preparation for the day, the Board’s entire Mental Health and Wellness team came together to create a video and toolkit with various activities and helpful resources for schools to use throughout the week. The video and toolkit provided an excellent learning opportunity for staff and students that helped further educate them on how to speak and address situations with respect to other people’s thoughts, feelings, and needs.

Diane Zanier, SCDSB Mental Health Lead 

“It demonstrates how to approach someone in a non-threatening, welcoming way. By knowing how to approach someone, we as educators, friends, and loved ones can create a safe space for people to share their thoughts while also creating a comfort level for those extending a hand and who want to help.” – Diane Zanier, SCDSB Mental Health Lead  

St. Benedict Makes Wellness Toolboxes for Bell Let’s Talk Day 

In preparation for and celebration of Bell Let’s Talk Day, Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Caldwell’s Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language) classes created “Wellness Toolboxes.” These boxes were filled with “tools” such as messages and images that were made to help raise students’ spirits when they were not feeling well. 

In addition to this, each Friday leading up to Bell Let’s Talk Day, their classes participated in discussions and activities around health using a Medicine Wheel model. The Medicine Wheel represents the four areas of our health: Mental, Spiritual, Emotional, and Physical. The Medicine Wheel teaches students about walking the earth peacefully and helps to pursue healthy minds. The class began by focusing on the “Medicine Wheel Within”. It reflected on the good habits that help them maintain balance and wellness, and later, students wrote what they appreciated about one another. Other classes at St. Benedict participated in mindful activities such as colouring, drawing, as well as creating kindness walls with uplifting posters that provided suggestions on things people can do that is good for their health and well-being.

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Holy Cross Students Stay Positive for Bell Let’s Talk Day! 

For Bell Let’s Talk Day, Holy Cross embraced and explored new ideas for staying positive and hopeful. Based on the book “How to Get Unstuck from the Negative Muck” by Lake Sullivan, Holy Cross School engaged students in a school-wide effort that supported students from FDK and grades 1-6 to explore what keeps them positive when they are stuck in a negative rut—in other words, stuck in bad thoughts. In addition to creating excellent mind maps, students also had the opportunity to make posters, videos and morning announcements on the topic. 

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Sudbury Catholic Schools Practice Mindfulness!

Mindfulness helps students take time to pause, improves their concentration and emotional intelligence and helps them to have a greater ability to relate to others and oneself with kindness, acceptance and compassion. Our schools strive to create different activities that practice mindfulness. Here we provide a sample of those activities:

Holy Trinity

Madame Chanda’s Grade 1/2 FI class learned and put into practice a few healthy strategies to help improve their mental health. The class participated in therapeutic drawing, listened to relaxing music, while discussing mindfulness and why it is important to have time for oneself. 

St. John

Grade 2 Students at St. John discussed stress while making their own homemade stress balls. By working together, they were able to help relieve tension and give them a tool to reduce stress.  

St. David

St. David encouraged students to practice mindfulness by introducing a variety of self-aware activities. In Kindergarten students took time to pause their growing bodies and brains by meditating. Older students in Ms. Bowles’s class participated in beading projects that helped students clear their minds and focus on using motor skills and creativity to complete a fun task. Beading activities were also completed in kindergarten as well.

“Beading supports the development of fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor, and cognitive skills and provides students with a sense of accomplishment and pride of workmanship. As students have really enjoyed the opportunity of becoming more mindful through these different activities, our school is looking forward to offering more experiences like this in the future.” – Dawn Marie Wemigwans, St. David Principal

Student Senate Introduces Fulfilling February Campaign

Throughout the month of February, the Sudbury Catholic District School Board Student Senate members have been busy sending school ideas for their latest campaign and feel-good initiative… “Fulfilling February.”

The Fulfilling February Campaign is a weekly social media campaign that helps to inspire individual action in areas such as healthy eating, exercise, reading, self-care and personal wellness.

The initiative was created with the intention to provide inspiration to our secondary school students by giving them different ideas they can do for themselves throughout the month of February to ‘feel good’. The initiative is shared through social media along including the Student Senate’s Instagram and Twitter accounts and took place Monday to Friday every week.

“Each day of the week has a particular theme, so we assigned different members on the Senate to come up with ideas surrounding that theme. Overall, I am really happy with the way it turned out and it makes us feel good by knowing we have helped provide other people some suggestions on things they can do to make themselves feel better.” – Kylie MacGregor, Student Trustee

“Through this campaign I feel like it has shown just how much we can do to help our mental health and feel more fulfilled.” – Jack Gouchie, Student Trustee

Fulfilling February Posts

Helping Learners Reach Their Potential by Encouraging Positivity in the Classroom

Sudbury Catholic District School Board takes the role of physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual health and development seriously. To succeed in the classroom, an education must encourage and support students in understanding that they are their own person with their own gifts that make them unique. To do this, our schools create learning experiences that expose students to the world’s beauty, helping them understand the endless opportunities that await them.

Holy Trinity Kindergarten Students Learn About Growth Mindset

This month, Mrs. Yasko, Mr. Vicedomini & Ms. Casey’s Kindergarten class at Holy Trinity School introduced the “Growth Mindset” concept. This model was put in place to help their young learners better understand their own capabilities and encourage them to put forward their best effort when dealing with new classroom challenges.

To do this, the school’s educators have transformed their classroom environment, using phrases , reading uplifting and encouraging stories such as ‘Giraffe’s Can’t Dance’, and portraying themes such as self-esteem, teamwork, and encouragement.

Sometimes we focus on factors that limit us rather than what makes us special and unique. Even when we struggle, we should remember that we are all God’s children. Through these opportunities we help all learners reach their full potential.  

“Listening to the students say ‘I can’t do it yet’ as opposed to ‘I can’t do it’ is very encouraging. A sense of confidence has started to take hold in our class. This is reinforced by the understanding that mistakes will be made, yet we can work together to create a more positive outcome. In the future, the class will focus on setting goals. We’re excitedly looking forward to seeing how these growing leaders tackle their next project.” – Domenic Vicedomini, Early Childhood Educator

Sudbury Catholic Schools Embrace Getting Outside! 

Outdoor education initiatives are essential in helping promote well-being. They have demonstrated a meaningful impact on student mental health, by lowering stress and supporting better focus. While some people embrace wintry weather naturally, others need some help to warm up to the idea. Through January and February, educators were able to further support students by creating opportunities for classes to get outside and appreciate the incredible winter landscape that northeastern Ontario offers. Schools welcomed various winter activities including:

  • Snowshoeing
  • Fire Building
  • Snowman-Making
  • Making Cedar Tea
  • Forest Therapy Walks
  • And More!

Picture Gallery

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Marymount Academy – Adventure 2 the Yukon 2 

Built on the resounding success of last year’s challenge, and in the face of an ongoing pandemic, on Jan 14, 2022, MMA officially launched Adventure 2 the Yukon 2: The Off-Road Ultra Expedition

MMA Secretary Pat Shewring out for a ski!

In the winter of 2021, at the height of the pandemic, Marymount’s senior leadership class created Adventure 2 The Yukon (A2Y), a school-wide challenge to promote outdoor activities and an active lifestyle. The challenge achieved resounding success, with many members of their school community joining the “travel”.

Together staff, students, parents, community and parish partners, covered the distance by participating in various outdoor activities like skiing, skating, walking, hiking, and tobogganing and then tallying up the total to virtually travel the distance.

Without any idea of how fast or far their school community could go, MMA took the most direct route from Sudbury to Whitehorse, Yukon (4890 km) and was able to accomplish their goal in three months’ time. To up the challenge this year, MMA is heading back to the Yukon, but will be travelling a bit different this year.

“As the name implies, we’re upping the challenge by taking an eastern route, through the rest of the provinces, up through the Northwest Passage, and visiting each of the territories of Canada with a brief stop in Greenland to reach Dawson City, Yukon. Last year 2/3rds of our school participated, but this year, we’re urging EVERYONE in our school to join this challenge to cover the 10935 km!” – Kim Coluzzi, MMA Vice-Principal

School members have expressed their excitement regarding the return of this school-wide challenge but have indicated it provides more than just fun.

The Virtual Outdoors Club was created because we know that being outside and active is not only good for our physical health (BODY) but also for our social/emotional (MIND) and spiritual (SPIRIT) well-being.” – Jennifer Geddes, MMA Chaplain

Creating A Network of Support For Secondary Schools

Valuing academics and understanding that well-being is key to every student’s success is a priority. It’s essential to provide students with the necessary tools and resources to help support their mental health and well-being throughout the year to be the best version of themselves both in and out of the classroom. At SCDSB, we support student well-being at our Secondary Schools by creating a support community that uses different strategies, services, and activities to help empower students and staff.

St. Charles College

Our educators work tirelessly to teach students how to be responsible members of society regarding their health and well-being and how they can contribute positively to the collective health and wellness of those around them. SCC takes a holistic approach to student learning by enriching their environment through inclusive, mental, emotional, and social programs and supports. 

Recognizing the importance and the diversity of the needs of all students, the school brings forwards a specialized team that works together to ensure that the needs of all Cards are considered and met. Together the Mental Health, Indigenous and Attendance Support Workers, are here to support Cards in being the best they can be!

Mental Health Staff 

At SCC, there is a team of specialized mental health staff including Mrs. Breau, Ms. McWhinnie, and Mrs. Renaud available to discuss with educators specific student supports and to plan for social-emotional programming to be run in classrooms. 

Mrs. Dokis Gagnon & SCC Students

Indigenous Support Worker 

Alongside mental health supports, the school’s Indigenous Support Worker Mrs. Dokis Gagnon provides a meaningful presence in creating a safe environment for students and staff. Her presence helps create opportunities for all indigenous and non-indigenous students to participate in group or individualized sessions that help the school grow to become more inclusive and respectful and encourage students to achieve their greatest potential. 

Attendance Support Worker 

Lastly, the school’s attendance support workers, work collaboratively to help bring all supports together and work with all staff to assist with attendance challenges they may be facing. They ensure to help students, staff, and families create supportive transition plans for safe and smooth integrations back to the classroom. 

St. Benedict – #BearsStayStrong Campaign

Ms. Sanowar, Mrs. Kuzenko, & Mrs. MacNeil gives their community three thumbs up!

During remote learning, St. Benedict shared two positive quotes a day on social media to motivate students to stay strong. This initiative is a part of their #BearsStayStrong campaign, where students participate in daily spirit days and set the tone for a relaxed environment. 

Sabrina Grossi, the Mental Health Clinician at St. Benedict Secondary School, believes that it is essential to engage in initiatives like #bearsstaystrong to provide students, educators, and administrators opportunities to connect, support, and identify with one another. It builds a strong school community that allows everyone to come together, which is important in creating a healthy, supportive and prosperous school environment.

Schools must create opportunities for students to nurture their mental health and wellness because we know they are vital in maintaining one’s overall well-being. Initiatives such as #bearsstaystrong are effective school inclusive approaches to help us foster a welcoming and supportive school environment where everyone can feel valued, heard, safe & accepted. Teaching students about mental health, giving them the skills, and providing mental health support will carry them throughout their lives, so they are equipped for whatever life brings. Additionally, it builds resilience, self-awareness and decreases the stigma around mental health.”

 “Every Day, we strive to create a culture that allows students to feel comfortable in talking about their feelings. They can email the admin team directly to share their mental health concerns and referrals can be made to a mental health clinician. The students support team which consists of the guidance resource, student success and chaplain are always available to support the mental health needs of our students.” – Merrill Sanowar, St. Benedict Vice-Principal

Mental Health and Well-Being Resources

The Board’s Learning Support Hub for educators and parents offers various resources to support students, parents, and staff in both their education and their mental health and well-being. We encourage students, families, staff, and community members to access these mental health resources and take a few minutes to discover our Hubs. 

In addition to the Learning Hubs, the Board has a dedicated Mental Health and Well-being page under Safe and Accepting Schools. Page resources consist of contact phone numbers, third-party websites, and smartphone apps that support and align with the SCDSB Mental Health Strategy and priorities. These resources are continually updated to support mental health and wellbeing for youth, families, and staff in our community. 

A Message of Gratitude

Each day, teachers, support staff, administration and students at the Sudbury Catholic District School Board work together to support the well-being of all through a variety of programs, initiatives and services.  

I want to end this blog by providing a final message of gratitude to the entire community.

Our entire team at SCDSB, education staff, office staff, support staff, administration, facilities and so on, have worked tirelessly to support the mental health and well-being of each and every child. I would like to extend my gratitude to the entire school board community for their commitment, contributions and for keeping our focus on creating the best possible conditions for our students.

A special thank you is extended to the members of our IT department whose swift actions and preparation made the transition to remote learning possible and to our mental health and human resources teams for leading us and supporting us through this difficult time. In addition, we sincerely thank our incredible community partners, including our amazing priests, deacons, and other faith partners, who support us and help us to grow in our catholic faith. By working with one another, we have been able to contribute to the collective health and wellness of everyone around us. Thank you for all that you do. Smile it Forward Everyone!

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