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Bell Let's Talk supports youth mental health programs in Northern Alberta

  • Clara Hughes, Séan McCann and Mary Deacon visit students in Fort McMurray today
  • Bell Let's Talk Community Fund grants for Fort McMurray Public Schools and Unity Charity
  • Fort McMurray the first stop on a 6-city tour by Clara and the Bell Let's Talk team

FORT MCMURRAY, AB, Jan. 16, 2017 /CNW Telbec/ - Bell Let's Talk today announced Community Fund grants for Fort McMurray Public School District and Unity Charity, as national spokesperson Clara Hughes and other members of the Bell Let's Talk team visited students at École McTavish Junior High Public School for a conversation about mental health.

"We're so happy to be here to meet with the incredible students of École McTavish Junior High and other friends and partners here in Fort McMurray! We're talking about the ways we can help boost youth mental health here in Northern Alberta and everywhere in Canada, and some of the great local programs that are helping to lead the way," said Clara. "Canada and the whole world know what Fort McMurray and region have been through, and we also know the incredible resilience of the people here. I'm looking forward to learning a lot on our visit and to taking new ideas about mental health forward as we prepare for Bell Let's Talk Day on January 25."

Clara is joined in Fort McMurray by Bell Let's Talk ambassador and singer/songwriter Séan McCann and program chair Mary Deacon, the first of 6 cities on the tour leading up to Bell Let's Talk Day 2017.

"I believe music is strong medicine and that a song can save your life," said Séan McCann. "The strength and resiliency of the Fort McMurray community inspired me to write Proud (to be a Canadian) and I am delighted to be here today to meet with the young people of Fort McMurray."

Fort McMurray Public Schools
A Bell Let's Talk Community Fund grant of $20,000 will support the delivery of the FRIENDS program to elementary schools and the training of high school student teams in peer support. FRIENDS is a cognitive behaviour, group-based intervention program focused on promoting emotional resilience in confronting anxiety and depression.

"Mental health has always been a focus at Fort McMurray Public Schools District, but now more than ever it is front and centre due to last year's wildfires. To have Clara, Séan and Mary speak about the impact of mental illness underlines the importance of what our students are doing with FRIENDS," said Shannon Noble, Associate Superintendent, Inclusive Education. "We are delighted to receive this grant to support FRIENDS and really make a difference for our students here in Fort McMurray."

Unity Charity
Unity Charity will use its $20,000 grant to support Northern Alberta First Nation Express Your Stress Arts Educational Program, a series of school-based programs focused on anxiety, depression, awareness and stigma. The program will be delivered through schools and community spaces in Fort McMurray, Janvier, Anzac, Fort Chipewyan and Fort McKay, engaging young people in assemblies and artistic development workshops over 2 days.

"Unity is proud to partner with Bell Let's Talk for our Northern Alberta programs to help improve the mental well being of young people in the area," said Michael Prosserman, Executive Director and Founder of Unity Charity. "It's critical to provide creative and innovative outlets for young people to express their stress and the arts are the perfect tool to allow young people to feel they are part of a community."

"These programs are innovative, evidence-based approaches to reaching young people and helping them deal with mental health issues in supportive environments," said Mary Deacon. "We applaud Fort McMurray Public Schools and Unity Charity for their engagement in the cause and their commitment to improving access to mental health support for young people across Northern Alberta."

2017 Bell Let's Talk Tour

Fort McMurray - Today
Clara, Mary and Séan McCann visit students at École McTavish Junior High Public School.

Iqaluit - January 18
Clara, Mary and Northwestel CEO Paul Flaherty visit Inuksuk High School.

Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue - January 19
Clara and Michel Mpambara visit Montréal's Ste. Anne's Hospital, a long-term health care facility that provides services for Canadian Armed Forces veterans.

Halifax - January 20
Clara and Andrew Jensen visit Laing House, a peer support organization for youth with mental illness.

Ottawa - January 23
Clara, Mary Walsh and Mary Deacon visit Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, which provides mental health programs supporting indigenous youth.

Kingston - January 24
Clara, Mary Deacon and Dr. Heather Stuart, Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair, will be at the Biosciences Complex Atrium at Queen's University to discuss the fight against the lingering stigma around mental illness.

Fort McMurray Public School District
Located in Northern Alberta, Fort McMurray Public School District is home to 15 schools – with one more opening this year. From French Immersion to innovative fine arts programming and from power engineering to sport academies, to cutting edge media training, Fort McMurray Public School District is Doing What's Best for Kids.

Unity Charity
Using hip-hop arts-based programming, Unity Charity engages and inspires youth between the ages of 12-24 from underserved communities across Canada to improve their lives and create healthier communities. Hip-hop is a relatable and easily accessible network of art forms (dance, beat box, spoken word, and graffiti) that provides a healthy space for youth who may feel disconnected from their community and/or overwhelmed by stress.

Bell Let's Talk
The Bell Let's Talk initiative promotes Canadian mental health with national awareness and anti-stigma campaigns alongside significant Bell funding for community care and access, research, and workplace initiatives. One program, the annual $1-million Bell Let's Talk Community Fund, has supported 344 community mental health organizations in every region of Canada since 2011.

Bell Let's Talk Day is January 25, when Bell will donate 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for every text message, mobile and long distance call made by Bell customers; every tweet and Instagram post using #BellLetsTalk; every view of the Bell Let's Talk Day video on Facebook; and every use of the Bell Let's Talk geofilter on Snapchat. To learn more, please visit

Media contacts:

Kiran Malik-Khan
Communications Coordinator
Fort McMurray Public School District #2833
(780) 788-8009

Rajni Sharma
Director of Development, Partnerships and Communications
Unity Charity
(416) 578-2898

Jacqueline Michelis
Bell Canada
(613) 785-1427


SOURCE Bell Canada

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