What is KEYS?

Keys To Empowering Youth to Succeed (KEYS) operates with the understanding that Wellness is for everyone! KEYS is a Mental Health Capacity building project funded by Alberta Health Services.

KEYS works with junior high/middle schools and in collaboration with community partners support the wellness of students, parents, and school staff members. KEYS aims to build resiliency in students and families by promoting positive mental health, copying strategies, and healthy relationships through awareness, knowledge, and skill-building.

What we offer:

KEYS primarily operates within our three project schools in a three-year cycle. Currently, these schools are Clover Bar Jr High, F.R. Haythorne Jr High, and St. Theresa Middle School. We work closely with school staff, parents and students in these schools to shape cultures that support positive mental health and healthy relationships.


You can always email the Clover Bar KEYS members,

German Villegas at 

Erin Dawson-Meyers at

Or you can reach any one of our KEYS members at Strathcona Family and Community Service at or (780)464-4044

"13 Reasons Why" -- Conversation about Suicide

There has been kind of an interesting conversation of the Netflix show "13 Reasons Why," which is based on the book of the same title. The show revolves around a student who completes suicide and leaves behind tapes which detail why she did the act. The book has been around for a while and it has more of a target towards young teens, but since the show has become kind of a hit for young adults, I think this would be a good time for an appropriate conversation around the show and it's depictions of suicide and mental health. 

Now,  the main concern around"13 Reasons Why" is that it almost glamorizes suicide, and uses it as a play for this student to get her revenge. This show is concerning, not just because it's graphic nature (although we know kids will watch things that may be a lot more graphic), but mostly because it deals with a topic that is almost unknown or secret (what causes suicide and how we deal with it), and it's main players are all young adults. Students might personalize with these characters, and might think that the show depicts the appropriate way in which we deal with the issue of suicide. The concern was so great that CMHA released it's own statement on it.

But, stigma and wrong information around suicide and mental health is not a new thing for Hollywood. In fact, last year saw the release of "Split" whose villain is someone who is suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (commonly known as Multiple Personality Disorder).  This was problematic because from statistics we know that people who suffer from mental disorders are the ones who are more likely victims of violence, not the perpetrators. And this is not restricted to the realm of mental health, do you remember all the times you see CPR being done on someone on TV? We know by taking First Aid, that CPR can look very traumatic, and not look like it does on TV. This is the same lens we should view shows like "13 Reasons Why" as a realm of fantasy and entertainment but not reality. Like all realms of media, something to critique and to evaluate.

These are some of the themes to critique and evaluate which the show dives into: 

- The role of adults in suicides -

When any show deals with tough topics such as bullying, self-harm, suicide or sexual violence it is important that youth have adults that they can talk to and debrief with about what they have seen and how it makes them feel. The series “13 Reasons Why” portrays very few supportive adults for the youth to reach out to after Hannah’s suicide, which leaves the youth to handle the emotional stress on their own. Being present and talking with your child about tough topics can be difficult, but it can also make them feel more connected to you, and make it easier for them to come to you for support

- The factors in which teens can have suicidal ideations -

Contrary to popular belief, talking about suicide with your teen cannot plant the idea of suiciding in their head.  Instead, it creates an opportunity to communicate honestly and openly about a topic that is often kept secret. However, as a sensitive and upsetting topic it is important to talk about suicide in a responsible and safe way. For example, the website – which is offered below in our resource guide - presents guidelines to the media about how to go about talking about suicide appropriately, which “13 Reasons Why” fails to model

- The role male students play in a young woman's life (the good and the bad) -

Consent is paramount to discuss after viewing “13 Reasons Why.” Empower your teens to know that no one has a right to their bodies in any way without their permission.  The show brings awareness to the harsh impact of sexual assault as it relates to the victim but fails to acknowledge the consequences of the perpetrators.

- The role of power in between the students, and how it shifts towards the person who has completed suicide -

Provide a safe space for your teen to process their emotions. Emotionally charged situations (even fictional ones) can bring up emotions in teens that they may not understand. Allowing youth to share how certain situations or experiences have affected them can help them to understand and cope with difficult emotions and process the emotions appropriately.

- The permanent nature of death -

Teens may identify with the characters and their struggles, discuss the reality of suicide and how it can be “sensationalized” by the media. It is important to address that in the show Hannah appears to live on and witness the impact her cassettes had on the people around her, the permanence of death is sometimes lost on teens.

The good thing is that shows like "13 Reasons Why," "Split," and countless others which show mental health in a stigmatized way, offer us a unique door in which we can discuss issues like teen suicide in a healthy way. Teen suicide is something that our community is facing every day, and there are many students who have been either directly or indirectly affected by suicide. It also important not skirt around or minimize the topic, students are watching this show so why not talk about it? I also don't subscribe that we should avoid the show altogether, or have it so people don't watch it. Banning something, or having students see adults use this show in an alarmist way, can lead to the Streisand Effect and also tell the students that adults are not able to handle these types of conversations and that they are left to their own to deal with. 

Discuss with your teen how they take care of their mental health, what coping strategies they have when they are upset, what they do when they are stressed. The show doesn’t offer a hopeful perspective on mental illness and doesn’t depict people taking care of their mental health in a positive way and could be used as a conversation starter about taking ownership of your own mental health. The goal for most parents is to have a happy and healthy teenager. Health, as we know, is not just physical, it is also mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. There are many resources about encouraging positive mental health in your teen.

Hopefully, you feel comfortable and knowledgeable to have these tough conversations with your kids, take a look at the websites below which may be able to help you, or give me a shout KEYS office and let's have a talk about how we can approach this with your kid. I would love to chat.


Additional Resources


The Support Network Distress Line

780 428 HELP


Canadian Mental Health Association: Suicide Information and Toolkits


Mental Health and Teens


Mental Health Resources and Support


Tips for talking with teens about suicide


Common Sense Media: 5 Conversations to Have With Your Teen After 13 Reasons Why


A Professional’s Perspective on 13 Reasons Why


Kids Help Phone: Resources


Kids Help Phone

1 800 668 6868


Strathcona County Family and Community Services

780 464 4044

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts

Anxiety is one of the most requested mental health concern from parents, and the most common one students identify. So while doing some research on this topic and I landed on a website called It deals specifically with anxiety with teens and youth.  I wanted to highlight one of the blog posts that deals specifically with negative thoughts. It mentions the 8 common thought holes:

It mentions that teens and youth run through 8 common negative thought holes when they are feeling anxious:

  • Jumping to conclusions: judging a situation based on assumptions as opposed to definitive facts
  • Mental filtering: paying attention to the negative details in a situation while ignoring the positive
  • Magnifying: magnifying negative aspects in a situation
  • Minimizing: minimizing positive aspects in a situation
  • Personalizing: assuming the blame for problems even when you are not primarily responsible
  • Externalizing: pushing the blame for problems onto others even when you are primarily responsible
  • Overgeneralizing: concluding that one bad incident will lead to a repeated pattern of defeat
  • Emotional reasoning: assuming your negative emotions translate into reality or confusing feelings with facts

The blog mentions how we can combat that by applying the Three C’s:

  • Check for common thought holes
  • Collect evidence to paint an accurate picture
  • Challenge the original thoughts

Your goal for the child is to give a more accurate view of the situation and to find out strategies for coping with those negative thoughts. Even by laying out why teens fall through those holes can help a lot. Read more about it here:

And you can see more tips and tricks to help youth deal with anxiety, which includes videos, resources, and a blog with ideas (including test anxiety) at

As always, you can email us at for more information or resources.

Developmental Assets for Teens: What are they? And how to use them!

The Developmental Assets ( are 40 positive experiences and qualities that influence young people’s development, helping them become caring, responsible, and productive adults. This has been proven useful for educators, parents, and any adult mentor for teens, to understand and help develop what they might be missing.

The more assets that young people have, the less likely they are to engage in a wide range of high-risk behaviors and the more likely they are to thrive. When they have higher levels of assets, they are more likely to do well in school, be engaged, and value diversity. However, not everyone has all 40 assets, in fact you’d be hard pressed to find them anywhere. The goal is to gain as many as possible but not all 40. The Assets are just a tool to help you understand something they might need developing if they lack it somewhere else. The average young person experiences fewer than half of the 40 assets.

KEYS has used this tool, along with many others, to inform us in the way we approach mental health and healthy relationships. Through the activities we do, the messages we give, and the presentations we deliver.

For your family, ask yourself these questions about your teen:

  1. Do they feel surrounded by people who love, care for, appreciate, and accept them?
  2. Do they feel valued, valuable, and safe?
  3. Do they feel that they have been provided with clear rules, consistent consequences for breaking rules, and encouragement to always do their best?
  4. Do they have opportunities outside of school to learn and develop new skills and interests with other youth and adults?
  5. Do they understand the lasting importance of learning and believe in their own abilities?
  6. Are they developing strong guiding values that will help them make healthy life choices, including responsibility, empathy, and self-control?
  7. Do they have the skills to interact effectively with others, to make difficult decisions, and to cope with new situations?
  8. Do they believe in their own self-worth and feel that they have control over the things that happen to them?

Better yet, open up a conversation on any of these questions, and see what happens! If you want more information on how to use these Assets, visit Parent Further: or you can always email and we can send you more information.



Clover Bar is starting it's very first GSA

What is a GSA?

From the Alberta Teacher's Association website:

"A GSA is a school-based group run by students and supported by teachers that works to create safe, caring and inclusive spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirit, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students and their allies in schools. Typically, GSAs are designed to provide a safe space for students to meet, socialize and support one another as they discuss their feelings and experiences related to sexual orientation and gender identity issues."

Today we're starting our first GSA meeting in Clover Bar and to prepare, we have provided a primer for all things GSA.

Why are we making one?

Every school can always be made safer. By taking in initiative to start a GSA, Clover Bar is making clear that we care about equity, diversity and the safety and well-being of all our students

GSA's have numerous proven benefits, some of which include:

- Minimize the negative effect of homophobic and/or transphobic bullying

- Help to ensure school culture is welcoming, inclusive, and safe for all students

- Students are more likely to feel safe and comfortable being open about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

- Students struggling with sexual orientation/gender identity are more likely to reach out.

There are also specific benefits for students which can include: 

- Higher self-esteem

- Greater school attachment 

- Improved attendance 

- Better work ethic

- Increased sense of empowerment and hope

- New friendships

- Improved home and school relationships

- Reduction of stress

- Increased Confidence

- Lower depression/anxiety

What will the Clover Bar GSA function as?

The GSA will depend on the students and what they identify as their individual needs and the needs of the larger school community. 

Some potential deliverables include: 

- A support space

- A safe space for students

- Increased visibility and awareness

- Educational and social change (eg. anti-bullying awareness days)

For more information: 

- Alberta Teachers' Association website on GSA's

- Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services

- The AltView Foundation


5 Myths and Truths About Kids' Internet Safety

Continuing on the trend of social media literacy, here's a great simple guide for parents in what works and what doesn't to keeping your kids safe online. You can also check the Common Sense media website for more tips and resources about online literacy and safety. 

5 Myths and Truths About Kids' Internet Safety

What is my Child doing with that App?

What is my child doing with that app? | Blog | Community Matters Have you heard the phrase, “There’s an app for that?” Chances are that you have muttered the words yourself or overheard someone mentioning it in passing. Honestly, there are times when it feels like apps have overtaken our children’s technology.

They download amazing formula calculators for trigonometry, they use messaging services to save their phone’s data, they find cool photography apps to make gorgeous snapshots, and they order pizza or movie tickets with a tap of the screen. The trend for downloading apps isn’t new, but our parental awareness is evolving to include these new threats.

Two-thirds of all parents are expressing worries about potential negative effects of the programs our children are downloading. Too make matters worse, a recent study estimates that 70% of our teens take some precautions and measures to hide their online activity from their parents. This secrecy and the prevalence of cyberbullying, identity theft, and sexting have parents raising questions about what children are doing with app technology. -

A Story on Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a great tool to combat anxiety, and the study to be present is something that is continuing and evolving. I found online a good video explaining how and why mindfulness can be useful through a story and animation. I hope you like it. Let me know if you have shared this video to anyone else, I would love to hear the response about it.