The following is a article on the WITS and LEAD programs where Monika spoke to students at St. Michael’s School in Fitzroy.
Fitzroy students use their WITS to overcome bullies.
St. Michael’s Fitzroy students took part in two separate mental health presentations on March 11 when they were introduced to the WITS and LEAD programs.
“These programs have already existed and been implemented in other schools,” explained teacher Justin Nolan. “It’s a chance to build a legacy around it and gives the kids a language to share.”
WITS stands for – Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out and Seek Help.
LEADS stands for – Look and listen, Explore points of view, Act, Did it work? and Seek help.
“We have to be able to trust each other. If we don’t have teamwork or trust, it won’t work,” said Nolan of putting the program into place at St. Michael’s.
There were three speakers for the morning – Monika Miller, who volunteers at the school; Chris Nihmey, a mental health champion; and Brad Peak, a school resources officer with the Ottawa police.
Peak has been involved with schools for the last three years, noting that with more schools taking on the two programs, it is now uncommon for schools not to have WITS and LEAD.
“With public figures stepping up like Clara Hughes and what she does with Bell and someone like Daniel Alfredsson, mental health has really been brought to the forefront of awareness in society,” said Peak.
“I find it all empowering,” he added, believing the WITS and LEAD concepts will change the way people think. “People think I want to do it myself, but if it’s not working, get help. Someone cares and wants to help you out.”
Peak told the story of being part of the cool kids clique. Others would throw food on the floor for a child with developmental problems and he would eat whatever was on the floor.
Peak felt it was wrong and called everybody out. He stood up for someone he didn’t even know and that quality has stayed with him when he decided to become a police officer.
The visualization of seeking help with problems as WITS and LEADS say – like being bullied – was illustrated by a game of Tug-of-War. It was a challenge that the students from both presentations were excited to watch. One student took on Peak, and the officer easily won. When the student recruited help from others, even adults, Peak ended up losing the game.
Nihmey has been a mental health advocate as he published a book about own issues back in 2013.
“Compassion, acceptance and perspective,” said Nihmey, of some of the keys for people to help others. Nihmey changed his perspective when he saw a kid throwing a baseball up in the air and never hitting it with the bat. Nihmey asked why he plays baseball, since he can’t hit. The kid thought about it and said, “I’m a great pitcher.”
“At my lowest time of my sickness, I had doctors, parents, friends and God,” said Nihmey. “They accepted for what I was going through and showed compassion for how they treated me. Never give up because there are people who love you.”
by Scott Campbell