Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as you have heard, the Nahendeh region has dealt with a number of tragic deaths in the past year. We have had a lot of people working on helping the residents deal with this matter. Last June, the Deh Cho Divisional Education Council trustees directed the staff to plan a conference around the theme of mental health. This is one way to respond to the sixth suicide in the past six months, a young woman from the community of Fort Simpson. There was a concern that our youth needed more information on how to live healthy lives and make positive choices. A conference was determined to be one of the starting points for educating our youth and leading into substantial follow-up in the area of mental well-being.
The council staff worked with representatives from Municipal and Community Affairs, Health and Social Services, and First Nations to work on organizing the conference this past February in Fort Simpson. The theme, Living Well for Oneself, evolved in response to the student survey on what they would like to know and do, as well as incorporating some of the direction from youth we met over this past summer.
The two-day sessions were organized in a conference-like format with a focus on mental wellness. In the evening, there were various recreational activities, from sport and traditional games to yoga and meditation, as well as various arts. Quiet areas were set up in the school, including open studios for those wanting to decompress using an art medium. A MUCH Music dance on Wednesday night was followed by two MUCH Music motivation presentations on Thursday morning for conference participants and for the Bompas students.
The conference was attended by 189 students from grades 7 to 12 from all of the eight Deh Cho communities. They were able to provide strategies to support students to deal with mental health issues and to develop and maintain a healthy balanced life. Conference organizers felt that they had strong partnerships and buy-in from all organization and a stronger action to move forward. I would like to share a couple of comments from the youth who responded to the following question: "What one or two messages were important to you?"
• Mental health is a serious topic.
• Never be ashamed of what and who you are.
• Believe in yourself; you are not alone.
They had 28 students complete this section, asking them to identify themselves if they needed to talk to anyone.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, the one saying, "It takes a community to raise a child," is so true. However, I would like to take it one step further and say it takes the region and territories to help our youth grow.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank the organizations, the government, and the youth for an excellent first start. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.