Mental Health and Well-Being Snapshot: February 2022
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Kindness and empathy: for Pink Shirt Day, and every day
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Supporting others supports ourselves

The reasons why we practice kindness often seem self-evident: Because it’s the best response. Because it feels right. Because everyone could use more positivity in their life. In the same way, it feels strange outlining the rationale for a focus on kindness in this snapshot. That said, we’re going to anyway, if only to reinforce what most of us already intuitively know - kindness can have a big impact, on ourselves and others.

Let’s start with current events. For anyone who is even remotely in touch with what’s happening in the world, it is apparent that there is a lot of division, and it is also clear that almost everyone is under way more stress than might have been the case a few years ago. For those reasons alone, kindness deserves to be in the spotlight.

But what does the research say? Well, for starters research has shown that being kind to others actually has a positive impact on our own mood. Dr. Elizabeth Dunn is a psychology researcher out of UBC, who has spent years researching this topic, and she gives a powerful message about that connection and the choices we can make in our days and weeks to benefit others and ourselves. Other research in this area has demonstrated strengthened connection with others and a snowball effect of positive action as a result of kind acts. Further, studies have shown that intentionally making time for positive contributions to others can lead to other positive well-being habits such as increased activity or more social connections.

And in our schools, we know that compassionate classroom and school-wide practices that are trauma-informed are best practices, not just for the most vulnerable learners with lived experience of trauma, but for all learners - the foundation of relationship that starts with kindness and compassion provides stability for further learning.

And finally, but importantly, February 23rd is pink shirt day. This day was started in response to bullying behaviour to send a message that the majority stands for kindness, not hurtful actions such as bullying. The hope is that by marking the day and engaging in meaningful discussion about kindness leading up to and on pink shirt day, that the kind actions cultivated over this month will carry forward throughout the school year.
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Be there to be kind

Be There is an initiative from focused on helping anyone develop the skills to support a friend in need. Their simple formula of five golden rules of support can empower anyone to show they care. While taking five minutes to hear someone out may not resolve their concerns, it will demonstrate that they are cared for and could be a starting point for further help and support.

Take a look at their "golden rules" below, or explore their site via the link below for more information.

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Stories to promote kindness

Books that Spark Compassion

We’re big fans of using literature as a jumping off point for conversations about well-being, and there is a wealth of content out there that can do just that for kindness and empathy. As always, your school’s Learning Commons teacher will be a good guide for what’s available or new at your school. Also consider the public libraries in your community. The Greater Victoria Public Library, for example, has put out this list of books that spark compassion.


The Little Hummingbird

The tale of The Little Hummingbird doing what she can to fight a forest fire is a beautiful story that highlights the importance of courage, as well as kindness, compassion, and altruism. The story also shows that kindness in communities needs to start with individuals and choices we make when faced with challenge. 

Inspired by this story, Heart-Mind Online has put together six kind activities to try with the children in your life to explore the themes of the book. You don’t have to try them all, but maybe, as the hummingbird did, take one small step in whatever way you can.
Kindness in the classroom

The Kindness Foundation: Kindness Activities Centered on the Core Competencies

The Kindness Foundation's goal is to inspire, educate, and connect to spread kindness. One project they have set up to further that goal is their Kindness at School Toolkit. These free toolkits align with BC Core Competencies and contain activities and lessons that teach the values of Courage, Compassion, Generosity, Gratitude, Inclusion, Integrity, Optimism, Respect, and Self-Awareness in a fun and effective way.

From their website: "Our goal is to improve student‘s understanding of the power of individual words and actions in the creation of a positive, accepting, safe, and kind school culture." Lessons and activities are geared toward upper intermediate levels, but many could be adapted up or down in grade level.

Kindness and Empathy are key to social-emotional learning

Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and decision making are all keys to social and emotional learning success. And demonstrating empathy, and being kind to ourselves and others are actions that will support success in all of those areas.

This short video details what those SEL elements can look like in classrooms and schools, and discusses ways to help students and staff foster those attributes.

Being Kind Online

Online interactions make up a large portion of social exchanges every day for many students. While many of those connections and conversations can be positive and helpful, some attributes of online communication such as anonymity, depersonalization, and the potential of many peers seeing or sharing comments, can at times make it easier to make comments that we would never say if face to face with that person.

Lessons that explicitly address the distinctions between online and face-to-face interactions (and what to do if faced with meanness online) are important learning for students. Common Sense Education has a number of lessons that could be helpful (free account required), such as this elementary lesson: Putting a STOP to online meanness.
Why pink?

The history and impact of Pink Shirt Day

Pink Shirt Day falls on February 23rd this year, and is a day to demonstrate support for kindness, inspired by the actions of a group of students who took a stand against bullying.

From the Pink Shirt Day website

"David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied [for wearing a pink shirt]…[They] took a stand against bullying when they protested against the harassment of a new Grade 9 student by distributing pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school. ‘I learned that two people can come up with an idea, run with it, and it can do wonders,’ says Mr. Price, 17, who organized the pink protest. ‘Finally, someone stood up for a weaker kid.’ So Mr. Shepherd and some other headed off to a discount store and bought 50 pink tank tops. They sent out message to schoolmates that night, and the next morning they hauled the shirts to school in a plastic bag. As they stood in the foyer handing out the shirts, the bullied boy walked in. His face spoke volumes. ‘It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,’ Mr. Price recalled. The bullies were never heard from again."

It's wonderful to see the sea of pink shirts every Pink Shirt Day, and it's great to hear about the ways that Pink Shirt Day sparks larger conversations about kindness and positive behaviour in our schools. Stay tuned for info from your school about activities for Pink Shirt Day 2022.

Bullying and how to respond

While engaging with the world in kind and empathic ways can lead to more positive than negative interactions, bullying behaviours can still occur and we need to know how to respond.

Here is a definition of bullying and some statistics from the ERASE website: 

Bullying is intentional, hurtful and aggressive behaviour that makes others feel uncomfortable, scared or upset.

A person who shows bullying behaviour usually picks on another person’s culture, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, looks, religion, or sexual orientation.

1 in 3 Canadian teens say they’ve been bullied recently

Almost half of Canadian parents say their kid has been bullied

Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirited, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) are discriminated against three times more than heterosexual students

ERASE = Expect Respect and Safe Education, and is a partnership with the Ministry of Education. Their website details action steps to take if you see or are the victim of bullying as well as other concerns such as online safety. also details resources and strategies to seek support and stand up to bullying.

Kindness in Action

Canadian Kindness leaders

The Canadian Kindness Leaders project is an initiative of the WITS foundation. One of their goals is to spark kindness in school communities by supporting schools with resources and funding for projects. 

Check out some of the amazing kindness project photos and videos from little leaders at elementary and middle schools across Canada (some from the South Island region), and explore the facilitator toolkits and other resources for teachers, such as compromise charts or active listening guides, on the resource section of their site.

The power of empathy

Empathy is a key component of being kind. But what does it mean to be truly empathic? How do we develop this attribute in our interactions with others? This short animation highlights what empathy looks like, and how it helps us build connection with others and provide authentic kindness and care when others are struggling.

An Experiment in Gratitude

In last month's snapshot we highlighted the powerful impact that gratitude can have on your well-being. This short (and heartwarming) video puts this to the test, and demonstrates that actually expressing that gratitude can be even more impactful!
Additional Resources

When caring becomes difficult

The advice and stories shared in this snapshot may be easily practiced or shared when we are coping well ourselves, but we know that is not always the case. 

A study out of UBC in the first half of 2021 indicated that BC teacher mental health concerns and perception of workload were both higher than before the pandemic - worrying indicators that the number of teachers at risk of burnout may be increasing.

For teachers feeling those increased pressures and stresses, it may be hard to consistently practice from a place of kindness, and the empathic strengths that normally serve us so well could be a drain if internally we are not coping well.

Some recommendations include developing positive coping mechanisms (and minimizing unhelpful coping mechanisms), fostering a belief that what you are bringing to work each day is enough, and establishing a network of positive supports and mentors. For teachers who may feel like they need additional support, resources such as the wellness program Starling Minds could be helpful. Similarly, the Employee and Family Assistance Program is available to all district employees who are eligible for benefits.


Small ripples of kindness can make big waves

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation's primary goal is to promote, you guessed it, random acts of kindness. They do this by raising awareness about the benefits of kindness for individuals and society, as well as empowering people with ideas and tools.

Check out this short video about the demonstrated impact that acts of kindness can have even on people who simply witness the act of kindness, and visit their website for kindness ideas, stories, and teaching ideas centered on acts of kindness.

Oh yeah, and remember, February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day! 

SD63's Mental Wellness Hub updated every month

This site compiles both local and online mental health and wellness resources for families and educators, and is updated monthly with new resources.
SD63's Mental Wellness Hub