August 24, 2014
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Section: West Island: Voices Of The Community
Feb. 6 was the first anniversary of the death from a drug overdose of a 13-year-old Rigaud girl. In an unofficial recommendation last December, the coroner said we must find an “objective” way of educating youth about drug use.
Last week was also Quebec’s 17th annual Suicide Prevention Week. Reports in the media underscored the necessity for greater co-operation between organizations and emphasized that resources are the key.
Recently, the province instituted an initiative titled Healthy Schools. Hopefully, it will bring together school boards, health centres and community organizations to improve the overall well-being of children.
That said, permit me to comment on teen suicide in the West Island, accompanied with an idea that ties in with the Healthy Schools approach. Consider: One third of deaths in Quebec among 15- to-19-year-olds is suicide. Also, take into account the startling fact from the report Portrait of West Island Youth, released last June by a committee studying youth-related needs: “West Island teens are noted for their high number of suicide attempts” and “girls made up the most frequent hospitalizations for attempted suicide in Montreal.” (The Gazette’s West Island section reported on the study: “Grim portrait emerges of local teenagers,” June 22, 2006.)
Not too long ago, at a funeral parlour, I noticed beside the visitor condolence book a stack of brochures from the organization Kids Help Phone. It is Canada’s only toll-free, bilingual and anonymous phone and Web counselling, referral and information service for children and youth. It is manned by trained counsellors who have experience in social work, psychology, and child and youth services. Matters discussed include relationships, substance abuse, sexuality and suicide. Help is available any hour of any day. In 2005, the group was contacted more than a million times for help by phone or online. So great was the demand that last Dec. 10, the Ontario government allocated $3 million to double its capacity to provide anonymous counselling to help students handle their physical, emotional and mental health.
As a retired teacher (who is still in the classroom), it seems that students generally aren’t as happy as they once were. Many of our youth lead turbulent lives; quite a few of them suffer from feelings of inadequacy and depression. As a result, despair and hopelessness set in and sometimes their young minds become quite frail. They need help and someone to talk to.
We have to use any means possible to get information and immediate support to our kids. The power of the Internet is one effective way that some school boards are utilizing to help out students and parents.
For instance, the youth in Laval can easily access Tel-jeunes, which is available to them through the Laurier school board’s corporate website. (Tel-jeunes is a kid-friendly phone and Web counselling service for teenagers. Issues covered include alcohol/drug use, suicide, intimidation, eating disorders and street gangs. Call 1-800-263-2266 or go to www.teljeunes.com )
I wonder if the Pearson board would consider creating a Kids Help Phone link on its website. The cost to the board would be nothing.
Following the above published letter in three other newspapers : Hudson Gazette , The Suburban and West Island Chronicle, I was asked by KHP if I could use my contacts in the education milieu to basically spread the word of KHP. Of course, I said “yes.”
All it meant was simply hitting the ‘forward’ key to promote KHP material to many people and organizations.Three or four times I forwarded info to three school boards: EMSB, LBPSB, SWLSB , teacher union leaders and other connected people , who had a wide reach.
This lasted for over a year until suddenly, without warning, the following was sent to the important people listed in the following email.
Original Message —–
From: Marcus Tabachnick
To: Chris Eustace ; and all LBPSB high school principals, Directorate, Commissioners, Central Parents Committee and MNAs Yolande James and Geoffrey Kelley (41 people)
Sent: Friday, December 12, 2008 1:04 PM
Subject: RE: Kids Help Phone Student Ambassador Program
Dear Ms. Cohen,
Our Board receives many requests each year for material to be distributed to our schools. After material is viewed by the appropriate department and adminstrator a decision is made about the request for distribution. Please note that Mr. Eustace is NOT authorized to make such decisions, nor is he authorized to make a mass mailing distribution of materials to our schools.
Our Board is constantly looking for community-based programs that will enhance the educational and social experience of our almost 30,000 learners. We carefully review every one of these to ensure its appropriateness. I am sure you will agree that for the safety and security of our students, that is the most prudent way for us to proceed.
It would be greatly appreciated if you would follow proper school board procedure for any future information you wish to have distributed.
Thank you for your understanding, and should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
(Signed off with LBPSB stamp )
Three days later, Dec, 15, 2008, I was at the Supreme Court of Canada to witness the hearing on the Bill 104 case ( the access to English schools matter). Lawyer Brent Tyler told the Supreme Court of Canada that the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) was of no help for his clients . The organization was headed by then head of the QESBA and chair of the LBPSB : Mr. Tabachnick.