Teachers in Edmonton Catholic schools were wearing green Thursday to raise awareness on student mental health issues.

As part of a new partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, the schools wanted to raise awareness on life-long mental ailments that can be discovered and treated earlier if dealt with at a young age.

Tom Shand, executive director of the Alberta division of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said that a stigma remains on the issue of mental illness, and that by promoting what people can do and spreading education, they can attack the problem earlier.

“People are fearful on how they’ll be seen,” said Shand. “(They) don’t have the same comfort level.”

Shand compared how people misunderstand some mental illnesses like schizophrenia to how people labelled cancer or HIV victims in the past, and said with more open discussion, some of the fears and worries about mental illness will dissipate.

“People still don’t openly discuss it … though now a lot of things (they) feel more comfortable (with),” he said. “But if you (accept) the idea as kids, you’ll carry it to adulthood.”

Shand said that half of people with long-term ailments could be diagnosed at the age of 14, adding that the earlier people know about their problem, the sooner they can helped.

“The earlier they’re treated, the better the life possibilities,” he said.

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