Tackling A Growing Mental Health Crisis
Childhood and adolescence are crucial stages in the development of a person’s mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, according to the World Health Organization, 10% of children across the global experience a mental disorder of some kind, but the majority don’t receive help or care.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children and young adults faced additional life pressures that caused or contributed to mental health challenges. In Canada alone, young adults reached out to one mental health crisis helpline 4 million times in 2020—more than double the number of calls received the previous year.
The Robb Nash Project is a charitable organization that helps children and adolescents explore complex topics such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction, and bullying. It works with schools and communities to help young people develop the awareness and skills required to maintain good mental health.
Robb Nash, musician, motivational speaker, and the founder of The Robb Nash Project uses his deep connection with mental health journey to provide the mission and drive to the organization. At just 17 years old, Robb went through a terrible car accident, changing his perspective on life as he knew it, and endured a mental health battle. Robb found that music was his gift, and knew he needed to share his story as a way to give back to the community, so others know they’re not alone in their journey.
As part of its response to the COVID-19 mental health crisis, The Robb Nash Project team wanted to design a curriculum that harnessed the connection they were able to create with their live shows, and encourage learners to reflect on their own mental wellbeing. Using music and real-life stories of youth they met while touring, young people are led through a series of discussions, reflective responses and journaling in a safe place to self-identify if needing help. They are directed to help and hope.
Linda Poulin, director of educational programs, explains: “For many years now, Robb Nash and his band have been sharing their personal experiences of mental health struggles with young adults across the country. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it gave us time to revisit what we’d been doing throughout our tours—and really shone a spotlight on how acutely we need to improve mental health support for children throughout Canada.”
She continues: “We wanted to turn what we’ve been using on tour into an online course for learners. We wanted to include high-quality, seamless video playback to make the stories and music as engaging as possible. Bilingual functionality was another key requirement as we strive to support youth everywhere in Canada. We had never developed an online platform before, so we decided to find a technology partner who would be able to help us along this journey. Our goal was to develop a course that could really improve learners’ lives and wellbeing and lead them to help and hope.”
Innovative Course Design
To transform its goals into reality, The Robb Nash Project worked with D2L to design “A Living Curriculum: Stories of Life Through Darkness”—a four module course designed to help learners approach difficult topics in a safe, supportive environment.
“We were really impressed with how passionately the D2L team threw themselves into this project,” explains Linda Poulin. “The support they provided was excellent, they held our hand throughout the whole project and gave us the training we needed to understand the full potential of the Brightspace platform. Whenever we had a problem, help was always available in less than 24 hours.”
To ensure visual consistency, The Robb Nash Project designed the look and feel of its mental health wellbeing course to align with its unique brand identity.
Linda Poulin comments: “Children and young adults are sensitive to the quality of digital services—they’re part of a generation brought up by platforms like YouTube and Instagram. If they think that a platform has just been thrown together, they are much less likely to engage with it. D2L Brightspace made it really easy to create a professional, seamless, and engaging user experience, and the platform fully met our requirements for seamless video and a dual-language interface.”
The support they provided was excellent, they held our hand throughout the whole project and gave us the training we needed to understand the full potential of the Brightspace platform. Whenever we had a problem, help was always available in less than 24 hours.
Improving Engagement With Mental Health Services
Since launching “A Living Curriculum: Stories of Life Through Darkness,” The Robb Nash Project has helped hundreds of children and young adults reflect on their mental wellbeing, learn how to access support services, and practice positive mental hygiene.
“Because mental health issues are so often ignored or considered taboo, we measure success in this domain by tracking learners’ engagement with mental health services,” says Linda Poulin. “From our testing, we noticed that 20% of learners who have taken our course have indicated an interest in, or need for, mental health services. What’s more, 60% of the learners that raised their hand were previously unknown to the mental health professionals in their school—proof that our course is helping learners to feel more comfortable about seeking support and exploring their mental wellbeing.”
The Robb Nash Project is offering the course to schools free of charge for its launch period and has seen demand skyrocket. One learner reflected during a recent focus group: “The videos left me with a feeling of hope. It made me realize that you can do anything no matter the circumstances.”
Linda Poulin concludes: “’A Living Curriculum’ is proving to be an incredibly powerful tool for schools and learners, which shows that we have found a winning formula for creating a safe space where youth can discuss difficult topics. We look forward to working with D2L as we scale our course and bring it to more learners across the country. Ultimately, we hope to help more young people develop effective strategies for protecting and nurturing their mental wellbeing.”