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Vancouver Island 10-year-old faces fears to teach lesson about mental health

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ESQUIMALT, B.C. -

If Quinn Scharien’s not expressing herself creatively, the 11-year-old is challenging herself physically. And she’s always, her grade five teacher says, showing compassion towards others.

“(Quinn’s) one of those students that you’re happy to teach,” Sarah Hallet says. “The kind you hope for in your class.”

Sarah remembers Quinn as a kind and confident leader in class. Quinn will never forget that day her teacher assigned that big project.

“You had to do it about something that you’re interested in,” Quinn recalls.

Although there were countless subjects she could have chosen—like soccer, baking or crafting—Quinn had no doubt which one topic to pursue: anxiety.

She was ten at the time, and wanted to explore the mental health issue she’d been experiencing for a couple years.

“For me, (anxiety) feels like my stomach drops,” Quinn says. “Like there’s butterflies.”

Then Quinn shows a colourful creature that her psychologist asked her to craft out of clay, which she calls a “Worry Monster.”

Quinn says experiencing anxiety is like having the Worry Monster bombarding your brain with a debilitating amount of potential negativity about a situation, and it makes you feel like it’s impossible to do anything.

“And he’s the one you talk back to,” Quinn explains how she strives to counter the Worry Monster’s irrational fears with more reasonable possibilities.

And there was a lot of debate with the Worry Monster when Quinn learned she would have to present her anxiety project in front of the whole class.

“Public speaking is an anxiety trigger for a lot of people, and Quinn was very anxious,” Sarah says. “(Plus) sharing something that was so personal to her was very brave.”

But Quinn was determined to face her fears, in the hopes that others would feel more comfortable facing theirs.

“If you don’t talk about (your mental health struggles) more people will feel alone,” Quinn says.

So Quinn created a 16-page slide show to present to her class, which explored the science behind anxiety, and offered solutions to overcome it.

And despite all the things the Worry Monster incessantly warned her would go wrong, everything went right.

“I was nervous when I was standing there (before the presentation),” Quinn says, before smiling. “But as soon as I started speaking it was like, ‘Oh! This is good.”

The presentation went so well, Sarah says, it inspired some of the other students to open up about their mental health too.

“It also gave them inspiration,” Sarah says. “(The other students) can know, ‘Hey, Quinn’s doing really well despite (anxiety.) I can do really well with this as well.’”

It’s a big lesson from a young person about finding the courage to vanquish the Worry Monster in all of us.

“Facing your fears can be scary,” Quinn says. “But once you face them, they won’t be your fears anymore.”

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