A Churchill Community High School (CCHS) volunteer student group will be one initiative receiving the 2020 Prairieaction Foundation Youth Leadership Award.

The Peer Support Volunteers began approximately four years ago after four young girls committed suicide in northern Saskatchewan.

The purpose of the volunteers to allow other students to talk to them, then provide support with issues including bullying, family conflicts and sexual wellness. If the problem is too great for the volunteers to handle, for example if a student is dealing with suicidal thoughts, the volunteers will refer the student to a social worker or counsellor.

The group is trained in peer support and receives other types of training and workshops each year.

Marian Andrews, a guidance counsellor at CCHS, is the group’s faculty advisor. She said each volunteer is nominated by other students based on trust and if the students feel comfortable talking to them.

“It’s not something where we (faculty) pick students to become volunteers,” Andrews said. “They are voted in by their fellow students.”

Along with providing support by talking, the group also holds activities and events to promote healthy relationships and mental health awareness. One event they held was a music showcase.

“We had a Music for Mental Health concert where we featured local talent and the peer support kids ran that,” Andrews said. “One of them went up and talked about how music helped him with his own mental health and how it’s an outlet for a lot of students.”

The funding from the award, which can be up to $3000, will be used by the volunteers in various ways from added training to hosting more events.

“We want to include more training,” Andrews said. “Some of them did SafeTalk last year but we want to try for mental health first-aid, and we’d like to network with other schools to share ideas.”

The volunteers received 168 calls from students looking for support last year according to Andrews.

She said they are still helping during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing support over the phone.

(Photo: Chirchill high school in La Ronge)