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McDowell Salon Series Conversations: Exploring School-Related Anxiety Among High School Students

November 2, 2017

“There really aren’t times that I don’t experience anxiety. For me personally, it’s a constant issue when I’m at school.” -Student participant

“I experience anxiety at school on a daily basis I would say . . . There’s almost always this knot I feel in my stomach when I’m at school.” -Student participant

For researchers Dr. Jennifer de Lugt and Jennifer Chan, the need to provide high school students a voice in relation to school-related anxiety compelled them to develop their research project. Funded by the McDowell Foundation, the purpose of the project was to further the understanding of school-related anxiety as well as how these anxieties can be mitigated.

The project took place in the community of Moose Jaw and included both confidential journal entries and focus groups aimed at getting students to share not only their experience with school-related anxiety, but how their teachers could help.

The top five anxieties identified by students were final exams or tests, social situations, class presentations, homework and pressure from parents. The students also identified a number of ways teachers could support students in mitigating their anxieties including building a caring school or classroom culture, building strong relationships with students, talking openly about mental health concerns and providing resources, being observant to student’s reactions, and providing options for class presentations.

For de Lugt and Chan, the importance of talking with students about school-related anxiety and providing the student a space to talk openly was an important starting point in supporting youth mental health.

A followup conversation to the research is planned for November 22, 2017, at 7 p.m. at Riverview Collegiate in Moose Jaw. The conversation will be the first in a series of salons or panel discussions aimed at sharing McDowell research projects in communities and will bring together teachers, the Prairie South School Division, community stakeholders and students to discuss how communities can collectively address youth mental health concerns. Everyone is welcome to attend.

For more information on the salon series or any of the McDowell research projects, please visit