The original concept for MyHealth Magazine was created in 2001, following the tragic suicide of three young people. At that time, we envisioned a resource that would provide accurate and interesting health information to help young people decide when and how to seek help for physical and mental health difficulties.
Our goal and challenge is to establish a daily presence in the lives of young people. To deliver on that goal, we work hard to develop active and engaging health information, in a variety of formats, every day, week and month during the school year. All of our information is rigorously researched and always cited. The full version of the magazine has over 100 info sheets and how-to sheets, as well as more than 100 interactive questionnaires, pop quizzes and polls.
Our Core Objectives
1. Improve health literacy
One of our main goals is to promote and improve health literacy in young people, educators and adults. We do this in a variety of ways:
1.1 Classroom-based workshops: We provide students and teachers with brief but in-depth workshops in the form of traditional classroom-based learning activities. To ensure consistency we've provided facilitators with PowerPoint presentations, a facilitator guide, and the handouts needed to conduct these activities.
1.2 Interactive learning activities: We've integrated our classroom-based activities with the online magazine and its interactive resources (e.g., polls, surveys, quizzes, and Q&A archive). These materials extend learning beyond the classroom and engage students in a way that can supplement a traditional didactic approach to knowledge acquisition. Baseline and follow-up surveys allow instructors to evaluate knowledge uptake after every module.
1.3 Ongoing education: In addition to in-depth workshops and learning activities, we aim to provide all students and educators with opportunities for ongoing learning. We do this by providing all staff in your setting with brief, engaging emails about developments in health and mental health. Spending just a few minutes each week reading health information an ideal way for staff to elevate its health literacy. When the new knowledge is shared in the classroom, students can join staff in this learning process.
1.4. Building awareness and practical knowledge: Building awareness about the types of difficulties young people face and knowing how to respond are two separate and equally important learning objectives. We've answered over 4,000 questions from young people on hundreds of topics and we continue to answer new questions every week. Our archive of questions and answers is online and searchable. Knowing what young people are asking and how to phrase an answer is an ideal resource for educators, especially those entering the profession.
2. Facilitate help seeking
Everybody will need help in some form or another at some point in their lives, but many people won't ask for help. Our second key objective aims to combat this problem by helping young people learn how, when and where to seek help. All of our materials are designed to promote and assist help seeking. It's a central theme and core purpose of everything we do. One highlight of our efforts is a database of over 300 helplines from all over Canada and the United States. The search algorithm shows visitors the national, regional, and international helplines within their reach.
3. Promote health and mental health literacy on a daily basis
One of the challenges facing those involved in health promotion is developing ways to improve health and mental health literacy in both young people and adults. Each cohort has different needs. Young people must gradually learn about health throughout their school careers, ideally on a daily basis. Adults, whether or not they're directly involved in teaching health and wellness to students, need learning materials that work with their busy schedules. Our solution is to provide all school staff with access to an online magazine that is interesting, engaging, and to the point. The magazine provides subscribers with a weekly email that can help them learn something interesting and useful in just five minutes. These emails contain:
How-to sheets on practical topics (e.g., how to talk to parents about a mental health concern)
Engaging pop quizzes on topics such as energy drinks
A "Mental Health Minute," which is a structured, five-minute exercise teachers can use to engage students in discussions on improving well-being
4. Embed mental health in health
Our approach embeds mental health within the broader spectrum of health. We've taken this stance from the beginning for two important reasons. The first is to acknowledge that health and mental health are in many ways inseparable. There are few areas of health that are not influenced by mental health, and the impact of health on mental health and well-being can be considerable. The second reason is to provide young people with many different reasons to visit the magazine. Stigma about mental illness remains a significant barrier to asking questions and getting help. For many young people (and adults) it's much easier to visit a "health" magazine than it is to visit a "mental health" magazine.
5. Be responsive
We've been working on the magazine for years. It continuously evolves and changes thanks to the outstanding feedback we've received from students, educators and parents. Great ideas can come from anywhere, and it's our goal to turn those ideas into practical, user-friendly resources. We routinely poll visitors to the site about how we can better serve their needs, and we welcome requests and suggestions for future content. Our best innovations come from addressing the needs and challenges local communities are facing.
6. Help schools monitor emerging trends in child and youth mental health.
The magazine can also be used to help educators and administrators better understand and monitor the physical and mental health needs of students in their schools. We have integrated a number of anonymous online surveys in to the magazine. Administrators can access the summarized and anonymous results of these surveys through their school dashboard. Surveys assess a range of topics, including school climate, health and mental health difficulties as well as mental health literacy and satisfaction with the entire magazine program. These results can be used to understand how the program is being used and if used over time, what kinds of health and mental difficulties may be emerging.