SONAR, apping the stigma

Students at Fort St. James Secondary School (FSJSS) have invented an innovative way to address stigma on mental health.

Students at Fort St. James Secondary School (FSJSS) have invented an innovative way to address stigma on mental health.

The Social Networking App for Resilience, or SONAR, is an interactive website and app meant to engage young people to learn more about depression, anxiety, substance abuse or any other mental health problems. The idea came into fruition last year after an UNBC practicum student visited FSJSS and organized a group to study mental health. Thus the SONAR team was born.

“We want to change the views Fort St. James youth have on mental health,” Raylene Erickson, 17, said, lead SONAR member.

In Canada approximately one in four youth experience mental health. In Fort St. James, more than half the youth who completed a recent SONAR survey met the criteria of having significant mental health problems. Over the past year, ten youth collaborators from the community worked closely to determine the main issues affecting Fort St. James youth. They concluded the three top reasons are substance abuse, racism and bullying. They also found a lack of opportunity for peers and adults to connect in meaningful ways.

“The SONAR website is intended to facilitate youth engagement and participation in the community. With SONAR people can log on and find out what’s happening in the community, positive places to hang out and it even has a calendar of upcoming events,” Jhenipher Bridgeman said, SONAR teacher liaison and at-risk youth worker at FSJSS.

This past January, Erickson and Bridgeman attended the Balancing Our Minds Youth Summit in Vancouver after SONAR was nominated for the Every Day Champion of Wellness Award. Although the group did not win, the two ladies brought back with them many ways to engage the community further.

“At the summit we learned about laughter, yoga, mindfulness, Mind Check and, heard so many stories of how other youth have taken away the stigma in their communities,” Erickson said.

The SONAR group hopes to use MindCheck, an educational website on mental health, to get more people involved. The website hosts a curriculum that SONAR will use in classrooms, called Stop Wondering Start Knowing. It hosts three sessions – What is Mental Health, Talk and Take Action and Recognizing Mental Health Challenges and Achieve Mental Awareness.

“Our goal is to essentially start with adults teaching the class but then eventually have students teach. It will be much more affective coming from peers,” Kaylee Walstrom, 16, SONAR member, said.

With help from grant writer Shauna Hesse, SONAR is hopeful to receive funding and together with the Theatre Northwest Music Makers and Nechako Valley Arts Council, put on a play with a mental health focus. It will be a theatre production for the community to see and will possibly travel to other schools, Bridgeman said.

“Moving forward we will also be doing an assembly to let everyone know about these resources and will be creating a mental health board in the school,” she said.

Anyone interested in being part of SONAR, the group meets every Tuesday at lunch in the First Nations room at FSJSS. For more information visit


Just Posted

North Road proposal draws heat

Public meeting to address Canfor request

First farmers market fosters a sense of community

Vendors and customers alike excited for return of market

Chief Dr. Robert Joseph awarded Order of Canada

An inspiration and role model for all Canadians

Workshop to help businesses find that perfect employee

Selling location and lifestyle one strategy for success

National ecology expert holds workshop in Fort St. James

Use of natural materials vital for environmental restoration

Police release video on how to ‘run, hide, fight’ if there’s an active shooter

Vancouver police offer video with input from E-Comm, BC EHS, Vancouver Fire and Rescue

Horgan defends fight to both retain and restrict Alberta oil imports

Alberta says pipeline bottlenecks are kneecapping the industry, costing millions of dollars a day

RCMP caution boaters after two kids pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning

Both children were given oxygen and taken to hospital

Barkerville opens for the season

Highlights of Barkerville’s upcoming season include 150th Dominion Day and pack train re-creation

B.C. invests $115M to create 200 new nurse practitioner jobs

Health Minister says 780,000 B.C. residents don’t have a family doctor

Supreme Court rules social housing residents in B.C. deserve rights too

Tenants trying to stabilize their living situations should not face less legal rights than those paying market rates: Judge

Union calls on prime minister to step into ‘stalled’ Phoenix compensation talks

For more than two years, thousands of federal workers have been affected by Phoenix system

Judge: President Trump can’t block critics on Twitter

The judge had suggested that Trump mute rather than block some of his critics

NFL owners adopt new policy to address anthem protests

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the change was approved unanimously by owners

Most Read