Chill and Chat returns with focus on student mental health

Mental Health and Addictions Councillor Ashley Kosolowsky checks on the hot dogs during a welcome BBQ for the Summer Chill and Chat program on Tuesday afternoon. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Ashley Kosolowsky and her fellow mental health and addictions councillors could see anxiety and depression were causing problems for some of the high school students they worked with, and the arrival of summer wasn’t changing things.

That inspired them to create a Summer Chill and Chat BBQ for high school students. The event officially began for another year with a kickoff BBQ and Prince Albert Collegiate on Tuesday.

“We’ve noticed that when summertime comes, especially as outreach councillors who work within a school, we find that we don’t have a lot of supports for our youth—for young people who are in Grade 9-12, so we decided as a group of councillors to work as a team … and bring as many youth together as we can,” Kosolowsky said.

Although summer is typically seen as a positive time where lifetime memories are made, some students struggle once school is out. Issues like anxiety, depression, and isolation can set in as students lose face-to-face interaction with classmates and teachers, and that causes problems when they return to school in September.

“They’re away from the routine of school and some kids just don’t have a lot to keep them busy,” said Diana Wooden, another mental health and addictions councillor who was helping with Tuesday’s BBQ. “This is just something to get them out of the house and, again, to continue to remind them what healthy coping is so they can continue that throughout the summer and back into fall again.”

“Sometimes it’s friends splitting off into different places, or there’s a lot of fear of engaging in new things, so that often creates a little bit of a barrier for them—not knowing where to go or what to do,” Kosolowsky added.

The program hosted their first BBQ at 1 p.m. on Tuesday at PACI, with two more events scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. The plan is to run events every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon until Aug. 22.

Other activities include sports, games, and therapeutic art.

“Summer time can be a rough time for kids, and having a place to do something is always better than doing nothing,” Kosolowsky said.

Kosolowsky added that local businesses have really stepped up to support the program, which allowed them to expand in 2024 after a smaller showing in 2023.

The program is open to students from any Prince Albert high school. For more information, contact Kosolowsky at 306-940-6087.

The program is led by the SHA School Mental Health and Addictions Integrated Outreach Team.