Whitby mental health advocate Mike Shoreman inspires students to overcome obstacles

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Published December 29, 2022 at 9:11 am

After a tumultuous two-plus years filled with pandemic restrictions, health scares and general upheaval from established routines, mental health has become a very important priority at the Durham District School Board.

Developing coping strategies for students and welcoming guest speakers to talk to the students about mental health has been at the core of what educators have been trying to accomplish this school year as the board remains committed to supporting student well-being and mental health at all levels of the organization and in individual classrooms.

To encourage students to explore various help strategies, the 5 W’s resource was developed by a working group of the 2021-2022 Durham District School Board Student Senate to reinforce the importance of student mental health and well-being.

The 5 Ws are:

  • WHAT is ‘help’ and what does finding help look like?
  • WHO can I reach out to for help?
  • WHERE can I go for help?
  • WHEN should I reach out for help or encourage someone else to?
  • WHY should I reach out for help in times of need?

To give students first-hand knowledge on overcoming obstacles, the board reached out to Mike Shoreman, who visited Meadowcrest and Julie Payette Public Schools in Whitby this fall to talk to students about the importance of talking to someone in times of need and having access to resources to help those struggling with mental health navigate to a safe space.

Shoreman is an athlete, speaker, author, youth mental health advocate, and the first Canadian with disabilities to cross all five Great Lakes. His journey across the Great Lakes raised funds for children and youth in crisis and raised awareness about mental health and persons with disabilities.

Shoreman’s inspiration comes from overcoming his own challenges and adversity. He was diagnosed with Ramsey Hunt Syndrome – a neurological condition that affects the nervous system and causes a loss in mobility and speech – in 2018. “I remember in my mental health journey, I felt very alone, and I think a lot of people do. I don’t ever want kids to feel like how I felt.”

Shoreman has been inspiring students across the GTA with his ‘I AM a Leader’ program. He spoke to students on the ways they can overcome obstacles and challenges and become leaders. Through his inspirational talks he emphasized the importance and value of teamwork, while highlighting mental health and disability inclusion and sharing words of wisdom gained through his lived experiences and challenging students to advocate for themselves and their peers.

“What keeps me motivated now is knowing that I did this [crossing all five Great Lakes] for the millions of Canadians who suffer from anxiety, stress, depression and worse. I did this for young Canadians to put mental health programs in schools in our community and across the country.”

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