Dr. Bob McMahon, an investigator at BC Children’s Hospital, co-dean of the upcoming Mini Med School, the LEEF B.C. Chair for the Reduction of Youth Violence at Simon Fraser University, and a psychologist, wishes he’d had the opportunity to attend a similar health science education program when he was a teenager in Richmond, Virginia.
“When I was growing up way back when, I never really knew what a psychologist was, other than what I saw on television, until I had a substitute German teacher in Grade 12 who happened to be a psychologist,” says Dr. McMahon. “Because we were much more interested in distracting him than learning German, I discovered a fair amount about what he did as a psychologist, and I thought it was pretty cool.
"Compare that to the opportunity that someone who attends Mini Med School now has — it’s light years away.”
The next Mini Med School will focus on child and adolescent mental health over four Wednesday evening sessions, starting Oct. 19, 2022.
Mini Med School is an award-winning health science youth outreach and public education program. The curriculum is designed to give a basic understanding of a specific field while exploring up-to-the-minute research, clinical applications, and social and ethical implications.
Participants will interact with world-class scientists and health professionals, learn more about mental health, emotional health and behavioural conditions in children and adolescents, be exposed to the newest research on how to support a healthy mind, and explore the diverse careers available in science and medicine. Session presenters will discuss the principles of psychological development, examine biological and behavioural symptoms, highlight effective interventions and work to break down mental health stigmas.
Dr. Janet Mah, an investigator and psychologist at BC Children’s and co-dean of Mini Med School, agrees Mini Med School is a valuable program for high school students.
“Child and adolescent mental health are very important and interesting topics that people are talking about nowadays, so this year, in particular, will be great for sharing evidence-based, reliable and credible sources of information."
Dr. Mah, a clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, will present a session on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Nov. 2.
Her interest in ADHD was piqued when she was a summer camp coordinator.
“I remember one boy in particular who probably had undiagnosed ADHD. It was such a struggle for all the other camp leaders to connect with him. They kind of wrote him off as the ‘bad kid,’ whereas I was able to connect with him and advocate and support him,” she says. “That was really when my passion started.”
Dr. Mah is keen to clear up misconceptions about ADHD and highlight new areas of research, such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families with ADHD.
Other session topics include obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism, depression and self-harm.
Dr. McMahon believes the earlier everyone can learn about mental illnesses, how they develop and how they can be prevented and treated — “because we do have effective, evidence-based treatments for most of these problems” — the better.
“Oftentimes, people don’t know about treatments or, in reality, it’s often difficult to access them because they’re not up to scale in terms of being able to meet the need. That’s not a B.C. problem, that’s literally everywhere,” Dr. McMahon says.
Both co-deans hope Mini Med School will inspire youth to pursue one of the many professions where they can assist people with mental health difficulties, whether it’s as a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a nurse, a social worker, an occupational therapist or a medical doctor.
“There’s a lot of need for good people to get into this field, so we’re excited to inspire the next generation through Mini Med School,” says Dr. Mah.
Mini Med School In-Person is open to Grade 12 students in British Columbia.
Mini Med School Virtually Live is open to B.C. students in Grades 11 and 12.
Grades 10 to 12 students in B.C. can participate in Mini Med School On-Demand.
Applicants for all three variations of Mini Med School can register themselves, but must find a sponsor teacher to support their application. After registration closes on Sept. 25, participants will be drawn in a lottery.
Participation will be tracked, and those who complete the program will receive a certificate.
Registration for every form of Mini Med School starts online Sept. 19 at 9 a.m.
For more information, see the Mini Med School 2022 page.