At the Nova Scotia Sea School in Lunenburg, teens are not just learning to sail – they are starting to soar.
Every year, youth between 12 and 19 years old with mental illness, addictions and cognitive disorders take part in Sea School youth sailing and wilderness programs.
The program is available for all young people, regardless of experience or personal background. Young Nova Scotians who are at risk of developing mental illness, or who have a diagnosed mental illness, take part alongside other participants. They are guided by instructors, and peer leaders like Rebecca Campbell.
“In our day-to-day lives, there are struggles. Having to experience those moments with people you don’t know, who you might not normally ask for help, builds your confidence,” said Ms. Campbell, 17, who went on her first Sea School trip two years ago.
“You’ll say out loud that you can’t do something, and you’ll believe it. But then you do it. And it feels great. It really pushes you to redefine your own limits.”
Today, July 20, the province announced a $20,000 community mental health grant to support those participants. It is one of a series of community mental health and addictions grants to be awarded over the coming months.
“Programs like this help young people learn coping skills and resiliency, and build their confidence,” said Lunenburg MLA Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, on behalf of Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine. “By learning new skills, they’ll understand they are capable of so much more than they might have thought before – both on and off the water.”
The Nova Scotia Sea School has been running youth programs for 22 years, since it was founded in 1994. Every year, it provides over 130 multi-day trips for youth, and reaches over 500 young people in workshops and day programs.
“Our students sail, build boats, learn to navigate on land and on water, and develop wilderness survival skills,” said Heather Kelday, executive director of the school. “While they’re doing all that, they’re meeting others, some of whom may be living with mental illness, addictions and cognitive disorders, among other risk factors.
“By working together and mastering new skills, they develop a sense of belonging and positive coping strategies they can apply to their daily lives.”
In total, the province will award more than $600,000 worth of community mental health and addictions grants this year.