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Three students at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus are getting involved with elementary schools in Kelowna to stop depression before it begins.
Fourth year nursing students Katlyn Ducharme, Maggie Johnman and Erin Bryant have put together a curriculum for Grade 6 students highlighting gratitude as part of Third Space’s Gratitude Project in Kelowna.
Bryant said they chose Grade 6 because, through research, they realized that school-aged depression’s peak-onset is at age 12.
"We wanted to hit the year before that because daily practice of gratitude, for example, writing three things down that you're grateful for at bedtime, has shown to improve wellness and decrease isolation and feelings of loneliness,” she explained.
According to Bryant, a big part of overall health is your well being and mental health.
"Different research has shown that if you're used to seeing things in a more positive light, you can rewire the way your brain works and instead of negatively reacting to different situations, you teach yourself to have more of a positive outlook,” she said. "Our hope is, if we provide these children with positive, life-long coping skills, by teaching them the importance of daily gratitude practice, it could help them in their future.”
According to Johnman, this proactive approach is quite different compared to what’s usually done.
"We're targeting depression but instead of putting things in place for people who are already experiencing depression, we thought, 'Let's go a step further and try and prevent it from happening in the first place,” she said.
So far, three schools have gotten on board including Rose Valley, Anne McClymont Elementary and Chute Lake Elementary.
Ducharme, who’s been talking to the classroom teachers, said their reaction to the curriculum was really positive.
"They've been really awesome about it and super excited and they think it's a really good initiative for the kids,” Ducharme said. "I think with technology, and everything we get distracted from in life, people don't take that time to just stop and think about what they have and what they're thankful for.”
The Kelowna RCMP are getting a new detachment building next year, and it’s supposed to open in February.
As part of the curriculum, students will work on a puzzle piece showing what gratitude means to them and an art project for the RCMP building will come out of that.
“In the curriculum, we talk about grateful we are to have the RCMP, to make sure we're safe,” Bryant said. “With their art pieces, whatever they decide shows gratitude, will become some sort of mural and we can show the RCMP that the community is grateful for them.”
In total, they’ve prepared 700 puzzle pieces, and they hope to involve about 15 classes. Currently, they’re in talks with SD 23, working to get more schools on board.
The student project is a partnership between Third Space and UBC Okanagan, particularly the School of Nursing.
"We're really thankful to be a part of it,” Ducharme said.
For teachers wanting to get their classrooms involved, you can contact Alyssa through the Gratitude Project website.