London West Girls’ Government calls for comprehensive strategy to reduce child and youth suicide

Queen's Park, March 7, 2018 – On Wednesday, the London West Girls’ Government was at Queen’s Park to advocate for a comprehensive strategy for reducing child and youth suicide, including mandatory mental health curricula in schools, and the elimination of waitlists for children and youth mental health services. 

Over the past five months, London West MPP Peggy Sattler has been working with Grade 8 girls from Clara Brenton Public School and St. Paul Catholic School in London on the Girls’ Government program. The goal of the program is to engage young women in developing policy recommendations and advocating for change on an issue important to them. In addition to their Queens Park visit, they sent letters to the editor of the London Free Press, created a petition and collected signatures, and wrote letters to the Ministers of Education and Health.

“At the start of the program, the girls identified the issues they cared about most, which included gender stereotyping, services for students with autism, animal cruelty, and homelessness. After lively debate and thoughtful consideration, they decided their government would focus on youth suicide prevention,” said Sattler. 

The girls conducted their own research on the issue, and also heard from speakers from M.I. Understanding, the First Episode Mood and Anxiety Program (FEMAP) at London Health Sciences Centre, the Child and Youth Development Clinic at Western University, and Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU).  “We are incredibly grateful to the local speakers who came to talk with us,” said Sattler, “to share their perspectives on the seriousness of the problem and how to prevent youth suicide.”

Sattler raised the girls’ concerns directly with the premier in question period on Wednesday.

“Gail Lalonde, mental health lead for the Thames Valley District School Board says ‘the girls are forcing educators and policy-makers to confront a gap in the system,’ and that a mandatory mental health curriculum would ensure consistency across all Ontario schools in how mental wellness skills are taught. Will the premier listen to these girls and implement mandatory K-12 mental health curriculum?” asked Sattler.

Following question period, the girls held a media conference to present their recommendations on the policy changes necessary to reduce youth suicide and improve the mental health and well-being of Ontario children and youth. They also met with government and opposition MPPs to advocate for their recommended changes, attended question period, toured Queen’s Park, and watched Sattler present their petition in the Ontario Legislature.

The Girls’ Government petition remains available for download to the public at http://peggysattler.ca/petition, and Sattler will present any additional signed petitions that are forwarded to her office.