Canandaigua schools take steps to build awareness of mental health

CANANDAIGUA, NY — It’s OK to ask for help.

Canandaigua Academy junior Caroline Healy, who has anxiety, did, by reaching out to counselors earlier in the year when the pandemic made her anxiety worsen. And they were helpful, Caroline said, and she is thankful they, as well as teachers, were able to help her with schoolwork and point her toward resources available to her.

“I’m so much better now,” Caroline said.

May is Metal Health Awareness Month. With the COVID-19 pandemic, youth mental health concerns have been on the rise nationally – to the degree that the surgeon general has urged a call to action to address youth mental health concerns.

Caroline and others in the Canandaigua schools and community are stepping in – quite literally. She and many others in the school community have been involved in the planning and publicizing of a mental health walk from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Sunday at the Canandaigua Academy track, the culmination of Kindness Week in Canandaigua schools.

The event is part of a mission to stop the stigma surrounding mental health, according to Leanne Ducharme, lead school counselor for grades K-12. 

Proceeds benefit the Family Counseling Service of the Finger Lakes, which is an agency that provides professional counseling and support services to individuals, children and families.

“Our students have been faced with many challenges over the last three years with the pandemic and our shifts in education from virtual to hybrid and back to in-person,” Ducharme said in an email. “They have been resilient in many ways throughout these changes, but it has not been easy and most of our students have had to learn to reconnect socially.”